The COVID-19 and climate crises are deeply interlinked: both have been borne out of industrial practices that are encroaching on our planetary boundaries and the collective health and wellbeing of animals and humans. Today, these issues need to be tackled in tandem and through global solidarity. The Global Youth Climate Movement has been on the frontlines of calling for climate action.
As part of the Green Screen project, which engages citizens in contemporary issues through films and debates, we explored how the Global Youth Climate Movement has been instrumental in bringing the climate fight to the forefront of public attention and politics. Where is the climate movement now, and how have the movement's demands and tactics changed over time? And how will it continue to push for international solidarity and cooperation for climate action?
This month, we featured the film 'Youth Unstoppable', directed by Slater Jewell-Kemker who began attending environmental summits, camera in hand at the age of 15. What began as a single journey evolved into an intimate and challenging documentary shot behind the front lines of the largely unseen and misunderstood Global Youth Climate Movement. Seen through the lens of Slater's camera, Youth Unstoppable documents the struggles, events, and first-hand effects on the youth fighting to be heard at home and within the frustrating and complex process of UN Climate Change negotiations. From flood ravaged villages in Nepal to luxury hotels in Cancun, from the tailings ponds of the Alberta Tar Sands to the riots of Copenhagen, culminating with the intense and defining events at the 21st UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, Youth Unstoppable shows us a powerful vision for the future of our planet and the young people who will lead us there.
Thanks to the struggle of several generations of climate activists, those fighting for action on climate are no longer side-lined and have prominent voices in public debate. But today we are in a climate emergency, experiencing record heatwaves, droughts and storms.
Our planet is wounded by greed, profit and an intolerable stripping of natural resources. But 'Youth Unstoppable' shows us that the generations inheriting the earth are far from meek: they are fed up with decades-long inaction and are doing something about the climate and environmental crisis. This debate explored the history of the global youth climate movement and its resilience and solidarity, as well as explored where it is heading today.
Mar Garcia, the Secretary-General of the European Greens, commended the contribution of the global youth climate movement in the fight against the climate crisis. She also highlighted the importance of coming together in this fight:
"The challenge of fighting climate change is one of the biggest challenges that humanity has faced. The transformation that we need is so big that if we do not come together, we are not going to achieve it so we need to search for as many allies as possible."
Slater Jewell-Kemker gave a great perspective on the beginnings of the Global Youth Climate Movement and the achievements that have been made in the last decades, whilst Executive Committee Member of FYEG Clara Winkler and Climate Activist Sean Currie gave an insightful overview of the COP26 and where we are today. They spoke about how their tactics at the COPs have changed over time to pressure politicians to take action on the most crucial issues – from contributing statements and documenting the process, to also creating impactful actions inside and outside the COP venues and talking to the media. One of the latest wins that Sean Currie highlighted is the demand that the term 'fossil fuels' be kept in the final agreement of COP26 to ensure that the Paris Agreement targets could be met.
Michael Bloss, Member of the European Parliament in the Greens/EFA Group, also spoke about where the Green Deal is today, criticising the logic of green capitalism embedded in it. He explains that there is a lot of investment in business, rather than a holistic change, and emphasises the role of youth activists in pushing the envelope to create more climate ambition and justice in Europea and the world.
"Looking at the very beginning, with Severn Cullis-Suzuki calling out leaders on the world stage 3 days before I was born, to recently at COP26 in Glasgow I think what we are seeing is that young people are stepping into their own power. They are stepping into a role of realising that they not only have the moral and emotional standing in this conversation but there is real change that can come about from this perspective of the next generation of young people, who are not only trying to save the world but create a better one. It is becoming a lot more global and more inclusive and it's very difficult for the media to look away." - Slater Jewell-Kemker, Filmmaker, Director of Youth Unstoppable
"Without the Global Youth Climate Movement, the climate crisis wouldn't be on top of media headlines for example. But still, at COP26 we were still being used as tokens. We tried to make contributions, the Youth Constituency submitted statements, we met the country delegations, they had beautiful photos with us, and still in the end the deal that was the result of COP26 was just showing that they had not listened to us on any of the crucial points. And that was the point that we as activists realised that we had to take this into our own hands. We just went to the media and called them out and acutally we managed to dominate the headlines to say that this was a failure." - Clara Winkler, Executive Committee Member, FYEG
"We are only successful in the European parliament if there are people on the streets, activists who ask us to do something. It creates a dynamic through which we can push ambitious policies. What we have now on the table is not enough but we have to bear in mind that before Friday's For Future (FFF) started there was a 10-year timeline of climate not being on top of the agenda and that has changed and this is the success of the youth movement." - Michael Bloss, Member of the European Parliament in the Greens/EFA Group
"There have been youth activists pushing for change on climate change for decades but that this has grown so much for the last 10 years and particularly in the last 4 years due to Friday's For Future (FFF). This has changed the narrative about young people. Young people have always been talked about in relation to climate change and we are talked about as victims. (...) Now, they also have to say we are listening to young people. Young people are showing leadership, taking agency, and forcing that change." - Sean Currie, Climate Activist
As part of the Artistic Spot, we showcased the work of the organisation 'Act for Tomorrow' painted the largest mural in the world that purifies the air in Constanta (Romania). The 2,000 square metre painting will neutralize about 95 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year.
Jewell-Kemker explains that we need to not only inspire young people to want to change the world, but we also need to bring them into the discussion as much as we can. She also emphasises that we can only tackle the climate emergency if we do so with others: "We need to make this a conversation and a journey that everyone wants to be a part of," she states.
Greens politicians across Europe have been pushing for a just and sustainable transition for all through a Green Recovery. You can read more about our resolution 'On the Future of Europe', which inspired The Green Screen project.
Register for free tickets to future film screenings! The upcoming session features the documentary film 'The Forum'. You can enjoy this film screening on The Green Screen platform, which will be made available for 48h next month. Free tickets are available, book yours NOW!