Disclaimer: this blog post has been written by Youth and Environmental Europe (YEE), a CAN Europe member, on the occasion of the Global Youth Climate Strike on September 24th. All views and opinions expressed are the organisation’s own.
During the past year and a half, the world has faced global challenges that have radically transformed our lives and whose impact will stick with our society in the long run: a global health crisis which has shook our social, economic, political systems to their core; a long series of natural disasters and extreme weather events have shown to the whole world – simultaneously in the global south and the global north – what our everyday life could look like in just a few years, reminding everyone that the climate crisis is unravelling in the here and now.
At the same time, young people around the world have shown increasing determination and strength in calling out global polluters and making leaders accountable for their future lives and those of next generations – asking for swift, meaningful change in climate action.
Against this global background, COP26 is one of the most-awaited events for this year; expectations are high, but the reality is that much more pressure is needed to raise climate ambitions that will make meeting Paris targets feasible. As the recent report on global emissions targets by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has shown, we are on the path towards a much higher temperature rise than the well known goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Furthermore, due to the ongoing pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions, not all interested parties will be able to attend the conference, primarily the ones that are, and will be, most affected by the consequences of climate change. Once more, the discussion about our shared future will not include all the voices that ought to be included.
It has become evident that the climate crisis is more than an environmental issue. It is as much an environmental problem, as it is a social and justice problem. As with (too) many other problems, it does not impact everybody equally, and the decision-making is accessible only to a narrow group of people.
However, this is not the case just for the COP26. The European youth climate movement should fully acknowledge its own composition. Dominated by Western Europeans, the movement is largely shaped and led by well-educated and white young people. Is the lack of demands rooted in environmental justice from the European youth climate movement a reflection of a lack of diversity and inclusivity?
It is time for the youth climate movement to change by becoming more inclusive and by embracing new narratives. Yes, young people are the ones who will face the full consequences of today’s political inaction to reduce greenhouse gases emissions. This is the very reason why young people have a right, if not a legitimacy, to be fully part of climate and environmental decision-making processes.
But first, we should not forget to look around the table and make sure that everybody is seen and heard.