Policy brief: The youth revolution

By Claire Roumet on 7 February 2019

Claire Roumet, Executive Director of Energy Cities

I am not very fond of articles flaunting their author’s personal life. Yet, what I will remember from this January is the day my daughter asked me to sign an authorisation to march…for the climate.

She is 14 and cannot skip school without permission. In her class, the discussions are much more relevant than those of many of the conferences I have attended. For these young people, the feeling of urgency is real and they are asking the four Belgian Ministers for Energy , who got themselves noticed in the international negotiations as those with the worst record, to stop gambling with their future. A fine example of unity and coherence from the youth of a divided country! In response, academics from all over Belgium have proposed a special law for governance of energy and climate policies!

At my daughter’s school, they are remarkably well organised and they have set up a rota, allowing part of the class to represent the others, every Thursday, until the summer. This proposal emerged at the school assembly composed of 2 students per class. The teachers are adapting their classes and organising talks on “how to answer journalists and not to be manipulated”; “the solutions to fight climate change in my city”; “how to protect the youngest in the case of a crowd crush".

On the third Thursday, the demonstrations changed place and last week 15,000 students marched in Liège where a delegation was received by the Mayor, as in Ghent and Brussels. Their claims are not therefore restricted to having responsible Ministers, but they are also directed at local elected representatives taking action to transform their daily lives. In response, Brussels City Council has voted in favour of a motion committing it to accelerating implementation of the climate plan. The City of Vancouver in Canada has also voted in favour of a similar motion after demonstrations.

In his book “Don’t even think about it”, the activist and philosopher Georges Marshall explains how difficult it is to convince people to take action against a threat that cannot be pinpointed in either time or space. Climate change is a perfect “problem”to justify inaction as there is no enemy. The @GretaThunberg generation led by committed young women (*) seems to have gone beyond this stage. For them action is now.

It is now on the menu of our family discussions, no longer a distant phenomen on but a very close one. The young and the education system combined are a powerful multiplying and agenda-setting force! Look at how the Ministers react, lying or using bogus arguments with secondary school students just does not work. Even Leonardo di Caprio is speaking highly of them and spreading the information.

I have checked with my daughter, she has no idea who he is, so the 600,000 likes are most probably from mothers!

(*) Harriet O’Shea Carre, Jean Hinchliffe. and Milou Albrecht, in Australia ; Anuna De Wever, Kyra Gantois and Adélaïde Charlier, in Belgium ; Rebecca Hamilton and Lilah Williamson in Canada

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