The future of our planet is in young people’s hands – and many are taking action. Even small steps, such as reducing your meat consumption or swapping the car for your bike, can make a big difference. Young people are also finding their voice in demanding more climate action from decision-makers right across Europe.
Did you know that 2022 is the European Year of Youth? Now, more than ever, is the time for the next generation to speak up and push for climate solutions. However, although 96% of young Europeans agree that climate change is a “serious problem”, only 64% of those aged 15 to 25 in the EU have taken steps to fight it in the past six months.
Perhaps you too are in this situation – committed to acting for the planet, but unsure about how to get involved? Then you’re in the right place! We spoke to several of our young Climate Pact Ambassadors, who shared their experiences and gave tips on everyday things you can do to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, protect your local environment and make your voice heard.
Be the change you want to see
“Young people are already playing an active role in addressing the climate crisis,” says French Climate Pact Ambassador Léna Prouchet. “We are changing our personal habits and lifestyles, and also proposing innovative solutions to tackle this crisis at a societal level.”
Léna drew inspiration from a course on food policy she took while at university in the south of France. The classes opened her eyes to the detrimental impact that food production can have on the environment and motivated her to organise an event in the local city of Aix-en-Provence to raise awareness about the issue. “Together with a group of friends, we collected leftover food from local markets and stores after closing,” she recalls. “We then prepared the food and gave it away for free, from a table just outside my university building. People were invited to come and grab a juice or a salad. We also put up some posters next to the table, which included key facts on food waste. The experience allowed people to understand what we were doing and started some very interesting conversations.”
Another Climate Pact Ambassador, Tobias Bohnhoff from Germany, got his motivation from studying geography. The subject gave him a good overview of how delicate our planet’s ecosystems are and why the balance between humans, nature and natural resources must be preserved. “It’s obvious to me that radical change needs to happen,” he says. “I am now vegetarian and have become more conscious about the way I travel.”
Tobias’ commitment to building a sustainable future also led him to co-found a software company that enables logistics and manufacturing firms to track their transport-related carbon emissions. “My personal mission is to help companies reduce their transport carbon footprint,” he says.
There are more young entrepreneurs among the vibrant community of Climate Pact Ambassadors. Filip Koprčina is from Croatia but currently lives in Cyprus. He founded Energy Shift, a web-based platform that enables people to jointly invest in and co-own solar farms. “This is about helping to democratise the energy sector and enable citizens to actively participate in the transition to renewable energy,” he explains. “Through harnessing citizen investment, more renewable energy can be fed into the electricity grid, helping to power more schools, hospitals and businesses with cleaner energy.”
Climate Pact Ambassadors are also making a difference in their local communities, organising and taking part in activities such as river clean-ups, recycling and tree planting schemes.
“I noticed how people were careless about waste,” explains Austrian Climate Pact Ambassador Julius Lajtha, a student based in the UK. “Cigarette butts, plastic bags and bottles are lying around everywhere in nature, so after the winter I started cleaning rivers in my hometown with my local fire brigade. Later I helped found a local environmental organisation and started working on climate education in schools and youth associations, before joining the Climate Pact. Today I want to involve as many young people as possible in Climate Pact activities to generate new project ideas.” Julius also works as the President of a European youth organisation in the UK, through which he intends to showcase the different yet interconnected ways the climate crisis affects everyone. He’s particularly interested in spreading awareness among youth organisations – especially those that aren’t focused on climate and environmental issues – and thinks the best way to achieve this is to identify shared interests, explore the links to climate action and develop cooperative projects.
Filip agrees with Julius on the importance of local action: “Organising beach clean-ups and tree planting activities make individuals feel like they are part of a community. People feel good about cleaning trash from the streets and making their neighbourhood greener.”
Young people also have a key role to play in demanding change from those in power. “If it was not for young people protesting on the streets and lobbying the governments, the transformation we are seeing today would not have been possible,” says Polish Climate Pact Ambassador Kasia Smętek.
Kasia is pushing for change as a member and a former President of the Polish Youth Climate Council – an advisory body to the Ministry of Climate and Environment. She is also passionate about giving young people a voice at international gatherings where climate change is being discussed. To ensure that young people are represented in climate-focused decision-making, Kasia has worked with the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, in preparing the Youth Climate Summit, and represented Poland’s youth in the country's official delegation to the UN Climate Summit in New York.
Tobias agrees that young people must speak up. “Everyone’s voice is critical, but more is at stake for young people when it comes to the effects of climate change – naturally their voices must be the loudest and the most convincing ones,” he says. “We cannot afford another generation making the same mistakes.”
Irish Climate Pact Ambassador Beth Doherty thinks collective action is the most effective way for young people to reach decision-makers. “My first step into climate action was organising a rally in Dublin with my friends, to make noise and demand that those in power deliver,” she explains. “I hope to continue to work with other young people to deliver change, particularly during my time at university.”
All the Ambassadors agree that the European Climate Pact presents a great opportunity for young people to collaborate on climate action. “I became an Ambassador because I wanted to connect with like-minded people from across Europe,” says Léna.
Are you ready to act for the climate? Here is what you can do:
Take a Climate Pact pledge.
Spread the word – become a Climate Pact Ambassador.
Feed your ideas to EU policymakers – organise a Peer Parliament.
Keep an eye out for youth-focused Climate Pact events taking place this year.
- 16 veebruar 2022