22 April 2024

Youth for planet: driving EU climate change | EFIVOS Articles

Author: Teodora Akinola

The pressing need to tackle climate change has sparked a worldwide movement, with young activists leading the way. In the European Union (EU), the united voice of young people has strongly influenced legislative chambers and policy forums, sparking a passionate demand for quick action. This introduction highlights the important role of youth activism in influencing EU climate policies and aims to offer a detailed overview of the extensive measures implemented by the EU to address climate change.

Youth-led campaigns like Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion have become powerful forces for change, rallying millions of people in the EU and worldwide. Their appeals for environmental justice and climate action have resonated deeply with people across different regions and inspired a wide range of communities. 

Climate challenges were brought to the forefront, have captured the attention of policymakers and immediate action was called, by using innovative tactics such as: campaigns on social media, public demonstrations and civil disobedience.

 Youth activism is driven by a strong belief in fairness and accountability across different generations. Youth, highly conscious of the existential danger of climate change to their future, refuse to be passive bystanders in the face of an imminent disaster. They have accepted their responsibility as caretakers of the Earth, supporting strong and ambitious actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, preserve biodiversity, and protect vulnerable communities.

 Youth activism has a noticeable impact on EU climate policies, affecting parliamentary chambers and policy-making institutions. The EU has started a significant journey towards sustainability, in response to passionate demands for action. This journey is characterized by a set of groundbreaking initiatives and legal changes. The European Green Deal is considered Europe's plan for achieving a carbon-neutral future. This program aims to reform the EU's economy by supporting sustainable growth, creating numerous green jobs, and lowering carbon emissions.

The EU has established aggressive goals, such as the 2040 Climate Target and the European Climate Law, to demonstrate its dedication to reaching climate neutrality by 2050. The EU's legislative achievements demonstrate its commitment to spearheading the worldwide effort to combat climate change, establishing a model for other countries to emulate.

This article aims to investigate how youth activism has impacted EU climate policies, analyzing how young people have influenced policy decisions and pushed the EU towards a more sustainable future. We will analyze significant programs and strategies to showcase how young participation may transform climate governance in the EU. 

The European Union (EU) has implemented a comprehensive and progressive strategy to tackle the pressing issue of climate change. The EU has positioned itself as a global leader in combating climate change through ambitious programs and legislative reforms. The EU's actions, such as the European Green Deal and strict carbon reduction goals, demonstrate a strong dedication to sustainability, resilience, and environmental protection.

European Green Deal

The European Green Deal is a significant project in the EU's goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, likened to Europe's equivalent of the "man on the moon moment." This ambitious plan suggests a comprehensive overhaul of all economic sectors, seeking to harmonize economic expansion with environmental sustainability. 

The European Green Deal aims to separate economic growth from resource use and environmental harm by promoting a circular economy that enhances resource efficiency and reduces waste. The EU plans to make substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transport, and nature-based solutions. This initiative also intends to generate millions of green jobs and foster socioeconomic inclusion. The European Green Deal paves the way for a more environmentally friendly and adaptable future for Europe and beyond by adopting innovation and utilizing technology.


2040 Climate Goal

The EU has ambitiously established an interim goal to decrease net greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2040 in comparison to 1990 levels. The EU's ambitious aim demonstrates its strong commitment to attaining climate neutrality by 2050 and moving towards a carbon-free economy. The EU plans to reduce emissions early on and speed up the shift to renewable energy in order to change the direction of emissions trends, in line with the goal of keeping global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. The 2040 Climate Target is a crucial milestone in the EU's path towards sustainability, offering a concrete framework for action and boosting confidence in the global community's capacity to address the climate challenge directly.


European Climate Law

The European Climate Law is a significant legislative tool within the EU's climate agenda. It enshrines the objective of achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and sets a mandatory target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. This Act solidifies the EU's enduring dedication to addressing climate change and establishes a strong system for overseeing, documenting, and confirming advancements toward climate goals. The European Climate Law enables the EU to set legally binding targets and establish strong governance systems to lead and inspire global climate action. It also establishes the foundation for a fair transition, guaranteeing that everyone is included in the move towards a low-carbon future.


Adaptation Plan

The EU has acknowledged the certainty of climate change effects and has implemented an adaptation strategy to safeguard its ecosystems and population against the negative consequences of climate change. This comprehensive strategy includes actions to improve resilience, reduce risks, and integrate adaptation considerations into several policy sectors. The EU aspires to enhance adaptable capacity and decrease vulnerability to climate-related hazards by including adaptation into decision-making processes and promoting collaboration among stakeholders. The EU's adaptation policy demonstrates a proactive approach to climate resilience by improving flood protection infrastructure and supporting sustainable land management techniques to help communities thrive in a changing climate.


Emissions Trading System (ETS) and Renewable Energy Directives

The EU's emissions trading system (ETS) represent one of the world’s largest cap-and-trade schemes, aimed at restricting greenhouse gas emissions from industrial and power production sectors. The ETS encourages emission reductions and allows firms to invest in cleaner technologies by setting a limit on total emissions and distributing tradable credits. Concurrently, the EU has enforced renewable energy directives to encourage the utilization of renewable energy sources and hasten the shift from fossil fuels. These directives encourage investment in renewable energy infrastructure, reduce prices, and help in the process of decarbonizing the energy industry through targets, incentives, and regulatory frameworks. The ETS and renewable energy directives are key components of the EU's climate policy framework, aiding the shift to a low-carbon economy and promoting innovation and economic growth.

In addition to influencing policy results, young people have been essential in promoting a culture of climate consciousness and involvement in European society. Youth activists have successfully garnered public support for aggressive climate action and challenged prevailing attitudes of environmental indifference by increasing awareness, mobilizing communities, and promoting dialogue on climate issues. 

Young people are now involved in climate governance not only through protests but also by actively participating in decision-making and policy development. The European Youth Parliament for Climate (EYPC) and similar initiatives offer young individuals opportunities to express their worries, participate in policy discussions, and work together with policymakers to develop solutions for the climate emergency.

Challenges persist in securing significant young involvement in climate governance inside the EU, despite the accomplishments made. Obstacles include institutional resistance, restricted involvement in decision-making, and power dynamics between generations still impede young people from fully realizing their potential as catalysts for change.

In the future, it is crucial to stress inclusivity, openness, and empowerment when enhancing youth engagement in EU climate policies. The EU can utilize the creativity, passion, and resourcefulness of young folks to bring about significant change by encouraging their active involvement, promoting discussions across different age groups, and supporting initiatives led by young people.

Young individuals play a large and multifaceted role in influencing EU climate policies. Youth activism has become a crucial force for change in the EU, influencing public support, policy outcomes, and promoting climate awareness. As the EU progresses towards achieving climate neutrality, involving and empowering young people will be essential in creating a fair, sustainable, and prosperous future for everyone.



 1. Fridays For Future. (2021, June 24). Fridays for Future – How Greta started a global movement. Fridays for Future. 

2. What is XR | Extinction Rebellion. (n.d.). Extinction Rebellion. 

3. European Council. (2023, December). European Green Deal. Council of the European Union. 

4. 2040 climate target. (n.d.). Climate Action. 

 5. European Comission. (2023, December). Assessment of progress on climate adaptation in the individual Member States according to the European Climate Law. COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT. 

6. EYP Climate Youth Action Plan / European Youth Parliament. 

7. European Comission. “The European Green Deal: A Roadmap to a sustainable Europe.” European Comission, 2019

8. European Parliament. “European Climate Law” 2021

9. Intergovernamental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “Special Report on Global Warming of 1,5C.” IPCC, 2018

10. European Climate Law. (n.d.). Climate Action. 

This article is published under the framework of the EFIVOS project. EFIVOS is an initiative aimed at increasing knowledge and awareness of EU institutions, policies, and democratic procedures. This podcast has been funded through project 101081482 — EFIVOS in Europe — CERV-2022-CITIZENS-CIV.

​​The European Commission support for the production of this article does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflect the view only of the authors, and the Commission can not be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.