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Youth are making climate policy

At the “Youth Parliament to the Alpine Convention” young people from every Alpine country each year discuss Alpine policy issues. © YPAC

The theme of this year’s “Youth Parliament to the Alpine Convention” was highly topical: how to cope with climate change. A declaration of intent confirmed the long-standing partnership between the organising schools and CIPRA International.

The theme of this year’s “Youth Parliament to the Alpine Convention” was highly topical: how to cope with climate change. A declaration of intent confirmed the long-standing partnership between the organising schools and CIPRA International.

There was no actual system change specified in Meran, Italy, as was demanded by the recent worldwide school strikes on behalf of the climate. But here and there the clear dissatisfaction with politics of participants in the “Youth Parliament to the Alpine Convention” came to the fore. Young people want to have their voices heard, yet too often feel excluded. The “Youth Parliament to the Alpine Convention” – YPAC – provides an opportunity and the preparation to do so. YPAC is held each year by ten schools from every Alpine country.

The 14th edition in Meran addressed the complex and explosive issue of climate change. During the week of 25-29 March 2019, the matter was debated by some 80 high school students between the ages of 16 and 19 years. Georg Kaser of the University of Innsbruck, Austria, co-author of several reports by the IPCC’s World Climate Council, was adamant: “We are at a crossroads”. He explained the mechanisms of global climate policy to the young people present – and why the political system is so sluggish. His message quoted from the young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg: “Start with what needs to be done, not what is politically possible!”

From traffic to human rights

The young people produced nine demands regarding the subtopics of ecology, health, human rights and youth participation and presented them on Friday to representatives from the fields of politics, science and civil society, including Barbara Wülser, joint executive director of CIPRA International. She praised the diversity of their proposals: “The youth know that the requirement is both for a forward-looking and effective climate policy from above – such as for transit traffic or water management – but also for initiatives by civil society, from below.” The proper political conditions are needed for these to thrive, she continued – just as is the case for youth participation.

At the closing YPAC plenary session Leonardo Fior, a delegate from Bassano del Grappa, Italy, pointed out the serious impact on human rights, ranging from climate refugees and changing lines of work through to drinking water: “What our postulations do is to make the distance between the ideal and the reality more narrow. To give substance to a shadow. To take some words written years ago and to give them a new voice. Our voice.“

CIPRA International has been co-operating for many years now with the YPAC. This partnership was reaffirmed in Meran and renewed with a “Memorandum of Understanding”. This in particular concerns the preparation of content, public relations work and the involvement of young people in Alpine policy and the environmental scene.

Sources and further information: www.ypac.eu