More than 40 European students from different European countries and backgrounds came together in Brussels last week to discus Europe’s youth as partners for sustainable change, as part of the EPP-CoR’s 8th study visit on 22-23 November. Hosted by Michael Schneider, President of the EPP Group in the CoR, and Cor Lamers, Chair of the CoR’s ENVE Commission, it was an occasion to hear about the next steps for local and regional authorities’ involement in climate change, environment and energy policies, just a week after their participation at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn. During lively talks with representatives of EU institutions and experts from youth organisations, the European students stressed that active, coordinated and targeted cooperation between local and regional authorities, especially young people, at regional, national and European level, can play a key role in mitigating the effects of climate change.
Despite twenty years of awareness raising and a body of scientific evidence spanning over fifty, public and political engagement on climate change is relatively low, according to Jan Mayrhofer, Policy Officer for Sustainable Development at the European Youth Forum, who made the keynote speech. He noted that for young people in particular, climate change is and should be a concern and that Europe needs to do better when it comes to communication. For his part, Andrianos Giannou, President of the youth organisation of the European People’s Party, stressed that it is time to move from talk to action: “We have to stop treating action on the environment as a discretionary ambition. Sustainability has to become a strategic policy objective, met with deliverable solutions” he said. At the end of the two days, there was broad consensus that young people and students can help the EU move towards sustainable change, in particular given their digital know-how. By involving more young people in getting the message out, they argued that the EU would enjoy more credibility as well as greater knowledge and participation from European citizens.
Responding to Virgilio Falco, Chairman of the European Democrat Students, who called upon his fellow students to leave the world to who will come after us, better than we have received it, President Michael Schneider underlined:
We are convinced that young people are not only our leaders of tomorrow, but also crucial partners for making policy today.
Cor Lamers summed up the mood of the EPP Group members with a call for the participants to play a decisive role when they leave Brussels:
Together we can make our cities and municipalities more resource efficient, more climate-friendly, greener, healthier, and more competitive. I therefore encourage you to talk to your Mayor, to the President of your Region about your concerns and solutions, which he/she can directly implement in your municipality or region. They can also pass it on to the national and the EU level.