Arguably, young people claim the greatest stake in a future kidnapped by the climate crisis. The glaring scientific evidence – caused by decades of over-consumption – provides only a shallow scope of the burden they will come to bear if drastic measures continue to be pushed aside for another day.
Nearly 2 billion people aged 10 to 24 inhabit planet Earth. These young people are acutely aware of the unprecedented socio-economic and environmental challenges that lie ahead. As the largest generation of youth in history, they demand the tools and capabilities to achieve sustainable development around the world.
The next few years are the most important in our history to prepare future generations to lead a prosperous, inclusive, resilient society based on a net-zero carbon circular economy. In this fast-changing landscape, our education systems will bear the responsibility of training students to solve tough problems related to climate change.
Exposing them to a climate change curriculum at an early age is critical for raising the next generation of sustainable systems-thinkers. The influence of forward-thinking educators and the cooperation of school systems will prove equally important in scaling innovative learning across the European Union.
Youth meets innovation
Learning and innovation are two sides of the same coin – together, they can accelerate change. EIT Climate-KIC’s education portfolio is transforming the way young people learn by equipping our youth with the skills and knowledge to empower and enable them to tackle climate change in their communities:
1. Young Innovators equips secondary-school students with the skills and competencies needed to become changemakers and lead us towards a prosperous, inclusive and zero-carbon society. What began as an educational experiment involving 22 schools has now expanded five-fold, impacting the lives of 3,900 students and 1,500 teachers across 167 schools. The Young Innovators programme currently operates in 24 countries spanning Europe, the United States and South America.
2. Young Climathon is a one-to-two day climate hackathon where secondary-school students work on a real climate challenge from an industry sector, city, company or school. It offers a clear pathway to action and interaction - an opportunity for schools and students to co-create local ideas to shared climate challenges.
3. The Journey is Europe’s largest summer school addressing climate change through innovation and entrepreneurship. The four-week programme teaches university students and young professionals about climate action, providing them with a hands-on business experience. Since 2010, EIT Climate-KIC has hosted 70 summer schools across Europe, generated over 400 projects and business ideas, and built a strong global network of over 3,000 peers.
When it comes to taking personal action, young people have more power than they think. Making simple lifestyle changes can help support a more sustainable planet. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) advises the following:
1. Become an everyday or weekday vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian. Talk with your friends and family about healthy and sustainable food options to encourage them to swap their diets too.
2. Start or join an urban school or kitchen garden.
3. For technologies and gadgets, use them longer, repair or donate them and ensure you find a reliable recycler at the end of their life.
4. Give your clothes a second chance: share, reuse, repair, recycle, sell, and donate high-quality fashion for second-hand use.