High school students from all over Europe handed concrete proposals for climate action to the European Commission's Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans - the outcome of a virtual Youth Climate Summit organised by the European Economic and Social Committee on 18-19 March 2021.
''Young Europeans have a say in the EU's future: without your calls for action, the European Green deal would not be here today'', said Mr Timmermans welcoming the event Your Europe your say 2021. ''I am really impressed at your in-depth understanding of the climate change problem and at the way you presented your proposals to me. This is the way to live - understanding each other. It's extremely difficult to hate a person that you can understand,'' he concluded.
After two days of lively virtual debates, over 234 students aged 16-18 from 28 countries working in parallel in 45 virtual negotiation rooms developed practical recommendations, which they presented during a final plenary session.
The students had to wear the hat of a stakeholder group, simulating a United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) and work together with other groups to create a plan to limit global warming to safe levels of well below 1.5ºC by the end of the century. The groups represented real-life sectors and industries whose activities and advocacy influence global warming.
The proposals included:
- Planting city trees and installing vertical gardens
- An "Ecological Manhattan Project" for the EU, investing vast sums in new technologies
- Investing in more education for the general public
- Implementing tailor-made policies that respond to each country's specific circumstances
- Supporting afforestation as one of the most efficient long-term solutions for carbon removal
- Introducing hydrogen and biogas, while phasing out fossil fuels
- Closing the gap between developed and developing nations
The young Europeans' final plan translated into a temperature increase of 1.4°C by 2100, thus achieving the goal of the exercise, and was presented by eight students.
Cillian Lohan, Vice-President of the EESC in charge of communication, closed the event by saying: "I hope the experience of YEYS has given you the desire to be active citizens; we need your participation for democracy to be strong. The youth movement has shown that change can come from the streets. Today we help those demands for more action to resonate in the corridors of power".
Further details about YEYS 2021 are available on the event's official page. (ks)