The challenges of the environmental crisis (loss of biodiversity, air, water and soil pollution, rising inequalities, social collapse, migration, human rights violations) are interconnected, and are calling for immediate and equitable action. To make the transition possible, we want 3 things: to raise public awareness, define policy choices and build up public pressure on decision makers to commit, implement and ensure accountability for sustainable practices.
We, participants of the EUBYF, identified two overarching issues that need to be addressed: 1. inadequate implementation and enforcement of existing environmental laws and regulations, 2. insufficient engagement and lack of public dialogue towards environmental protection.
Theme 1: Inadequate implementation and enforcement of existing environmental laws and regulations.
We believe that industrial activities, especially the ones in the energy sector (coal, gas, oil), are at the core of the climate emergency. Even though a legislative framework for climate and environment exists (Paris agreement, Sofia declaration, national laws etc.), these regulations are not properly implemented or enforced. We have identified 5 action proposals.
We think that there is an urgent need for the Western Balkans and the EU to decarbonize their energy systems, including phasing out coal. As an action, we want the EU to introduce clear deadlines on fulfilling the Sofia declaration obligations, including more conditions on obtaining pre-accession funds and placing restrictions on the WB governments from exporting coal-based electricity.
We call for renewable energy systems, such as hydropower, to have better monitoring tools, greater financial transparency but also better research on its environmental impact.
We call for an increase in private investments and liberalisation of the renewables market in the Western Balkan region.
We need to implement independent monitoring mechanisms and organisations (legislation transparency, monitoring pollution levels and deadlines for the transition implementation).
In terms of sustainability, we want our governments to enforce the existing laws and adopt the proper schemes, infrastructure and facilities for practices, such as recycling, to be successful.
Theme 2: Civil Society Participation
We have recognised the lack of awareness on the issue of environmental protection (e.g. the continuous buildout of new coal/ polluting industries, the continuous environmental degradation, etc.) and its consequences. We believe that the latter results from the interplay of different factors, i.e. lack of education, scarce civic participation, misinformation and questions related to accessibility.
We want to make sustainable alternatives more accessible and affordable for the general public.
We feel that awareness can be improved by making information about the environment more clear, accessible and less technical. The language of such messages must be adapted to the target group.
We urge to make use of existing participatory frameworks, such as national Youth Councils, and the Year of the Youth in 2022 is a crucial step to drastically increase youth engagement.
We strongly propose to include youth in EU macro regional strategies by establishing tangible cooperation between this forum’s representatives and the national presidencies through follow-up meetings on the objectives discussed.
We urge you to establish a European network consisting of both EU and WB youth organisations, so that the youth can serve as a “watchdog” on the implementation of the legislative framework concerning environmental protection in our continent.
We encourage capacity-building of civic society organisations, the improvement and expansion of grassroots projects by connecting regional projects and good practices.
We promote activism and advocacy as means of urging governments to end coal investments, close down illegal landfills, regulate hydro plants and take accountability and action for the climate crisis.
We strongly suggest utilising the EUBYF’s participants as a communication channel towards youth for purposes such as inclusion, visibility, awareness-raising and transparency.