180 Austrian schoolchildren demand action from politicians

Renewable energy, electromobility, public transport, airtravel, nuclear power, migration, penalties for CO2 emissions, eating habits, the COP15 climate summit, personal lifestyle, deforestation or CO2 food labels – rarely, so many aspects of a topic are debated in the Austrian parliament like in the “Youth.Climate.Parliament” some days ago.

After presenting “Climate protection now!” banners in the entrance hall, 180 schoolchildren had the opportunity to ask the environmental speakers of the five parties in the Austrian parliament their questions concerning climate change and the Austrian aims and position for the COP15 summit. In contrast to domestic politicians and media who regularly fail to present climate change issues in an understandable and vivid manner, the young people managed to ask difficult questions and address complex issues.

For instance, the schoolchildren talked about climate refugees – a topic at the intersection of climate change, poverty and asylum where suddenly the representatives of the right-wing parties didn’t want to answer questions although they usually don’t hesitate to criminalize every foreigner as soon as they hear the word “asylum”. Moreover, while journalists usually concentrate on current problems in the area of asylum policies and are satisfied with populist answers, the schoolchildren demanded sophisticated answers to complex future challenges like climate migration.

Sometimes the politicians managed to give these sophisticated answers, sometimes they failed. While accusations against the USA or China as well as personal conflicts among the environmental speakers didn’t cause any enthusiasm, the young girls and boys were very interested in personal and global issues such as public transport, food, renewable energy or climate refugees. They even applauded the two speakers of the coalition government when those cowardly declared that they would vote against the schoolchildren’s draft resolution to the Parliament including four environmental claims (financing of mitigation and adaption measures; stop deforestation; no nuclear power; 40% emissions reduction until 2020) because their parties couldn’t endorse a 40% emissions cut until 2020 in the face of the EU’s 20% target.

For me, it became once again clear that young people are not only competent and interested in all kinds of information concerning climate change but also want to take action and responsibility for their future. Especially young people who grow up in a globalized world and who are aware of the impact that they can make if they work together must become the most important pioneers of the necessary change in our society and in our economy! Politicians must therefore actively approach young people and ask them about their problems, experience and advice. They must appreciate young people’s civic engagement, give them the opportunity to make political decisions in their personal areas of life and foster the awareness for climate change, inequality and other global problems within the society!

So, despite the economic crisis, climate change and insecure pension systems it is clear that today’s youth can have a bright future! The curious and courageous schoolchildren at the “Youth.Climate.Parliament” in Vienna proofed that they will be capable of solving tomorrow’s political and ecological challenges with their courage, their thirst for knowledge and their cross-linked way of thinking and acting.

Here’s a video in German from this great event:

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Note: This blogpost was also published on the TH!NK ABOUT IT website.

Posted on November 18, 2009 in Climate Change

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About the Author

Andreas Lindinger is a Vienna-based business consultant, sustainability expert and urban thinker passionate about livable cities, sustainable transportation, renewable energy and civic engagement. Andreas offers a transdisciplinary business, finance and sustainability background, industry expertise in energy, mobility and environmental consulting and broad international experience gained in Vienna, Vancouver, Berlin and Dublin. Make sure to also check out Vienncouver.com and to follow @lindinger on Twitter.

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