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The Youth Perspective on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030

In August 2030, the coordinators of GYBN Europe+ were asked to write an article on the youth perspective for the Austrian Office on EU Environmental Policy, also know as the EU Umweltbüro. Follow this link to see the full publication: https://www.eu-umweltbuero.at/assets/Uploads/EUropainfo-2-22.pdf


The news that the youth are organising demonstrations, making statements, exposing the ‘business as usual’ mental block and holding all sectors of society accountable is not new to those working in the environmental fields. Most of the youth grew up in a world post-Rio Convention. A world where we are taught about extinctions and climate change at the same time as algebra and the speed of light. And through the years, we have grown as has the scientific evidence that the planet is in real danger.


With this in mind, it is not surprising that the youth are mobilising. The youth climate activism scene has ballooned since Greta Thunberg showed us how to move past our environmental anxiety and act. Similarly, the youth biodiversity activism scene is blossoming. The Global Youth Biodiversity Network has 33 chapters across the world[1] and organisations such as Youth for Our Planet, Youth for Nature and Extinction Rebellion are expanding in members and areas of activism. Youth don’t only want lowered greenhouse gas emissions, they want a healthy planet, a natural inheritance and a sustainable and just society.


On the 20th May 2020, the EU Commission released the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. This strategy is one of the pillars of the EU Green Deal, paving the way for a sustainable new normal. For the Directorate-General for Environment and many environmentalists, this was the successful result of many months of hard work, debates, and consultations.


On 16 July 2020 Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, and Carla Reemtsma from Fridays for Future Germany were seated at a table discussing the EU Green Deal[2]. She, along with other activists have criticised the EU Green Deal as not enough real transformative change, while Frans defended the Deal as a large, cooperative effort of the EU to move towards a more sustainable path. He also stated that “without the Fridays For Future there wouldn’t be a Green Deal.”


The EU Green Deal is progressive; it is a larger step than was ever taken before; it will put Europe on a path to being climate neutral by 2050, all of which is positive. Yet, youth activists all agree that this is not a victory, this is the bare minimum of what must be achieved. Europe as a global leader, as a continent carrying much of the historical responsibility for the current environmental state we are in, should lead by example. If we as the richest, most developed continent, cannot do better than to drag ourselves to the goal and make it in the nick of time, what hope is there that the rest of the world will be able to do the same or even better?


The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 also has the additional responsibility of needing to adhere to the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) which will be decided on hopefully in May 2021 at the 15th COP of the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD). Once all the parties agree to a new framework, they will be required to implement it within their own countries through National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAP). While the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 is not a NBSAP, it must acknowledge that the EU indirectly and directly affects 70-80% of national environmental legislation and therefore has a big responsibility[3].


With this in mind, GYBN Europe+, the newly formed European regional chapter of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (the official youth constituency of the CBD), gathered opinions from its members and produced a response to the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030[4]. The most positive reaction was towards the Restoration Plan which has the potential to combat the biodiversity and the climate crises as well as provide meaningful jobs, especially to youth who graduated into an economic slump due to the pandemic. One of the biggest disappointments* was the lack of clarity and definition of youth involvement. The word youth was only mentioned once and only within in a list of groups requiring special consideration in the post-2020 GBF.


The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 indirectly promised to ensure the “full and effective participation” of youth but it does not specify in what context. The Global Youth Biodiversity Network has been campaigning for youth participation in decision making at an international level for the last 10 years[5] yet the EU member states still do not have a dedicated, funded position for a youth perspective on their CBD delegation teams and while some may, this is often just a token position where the youth delegate is not seen as a fully included member of the team. The youth are often criticised for being idealistic, but their fresh perspective and ability to adapt in a rapidly changing environment means their contributions can be very helpful in decision making bodies.


While the above mentioned ideas and perspectives are from youth who are working with and through the current political structures, it is worth mentioning that there are many young people who have given up hope that this alone will achieve the much needed transformative change. For these youth, the EU Biodiversity Strategy is just another document filled with political ambiguity and promises which will be added to the list of unmet promises that litters our history.


The real success will only be revealed in the full adoption of this strategy by all parts of the EU, the clarity and targets of the impending new laws, the increase in financial prioritization for biodiversity, and improvements in the implementation and accountability systems needed to ensure the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 will have the intended effect. This is what the youth will fight for. This is what the youth will hold society accountable for.


* Slight correction/alteration from the original article

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