Joint press release by the German Environment Agency and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection

Young people care about environment and climate

Current youth study: Young people want a greater say when it comes to their future

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Climate action and environmental protection are hot topics among young people
Source: IOEW

85 percent of the young people surveyed say environmental protection and climate action are important, thus ranking the topic among the four most important to young people in Germany. These are the findings of the representative survey “Zukunft? Jugend fragen! – 2021” of more than 1,000 young people ages 14-22 which was done on behalf of the German Environment Agency (UBA) and the Federal Ministry for Environment (BMUV). The survey found that three quarters of the respondents are generally optimistic about their personal future in 20 years. The findings are quite different when it comes to environment and climate: a mere one quarter is confident of a positive development in this area, and 71 percent are pessimistic. The grand challenges in preserving our essential life support systems are a matter of concern to young people and a source of emotional stress, with 88 percent reporting sadness about manmade environmental degradation. Three quarters are fearful of the consequences of the climate crisis.

Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke said: “Young people are optimistic about their personal future but are very worried about the future of our planet. The latter must be an obligation for us, especially in politics, to continue to focus on the long-term challenges in times of acute crises and to find solutions. For young people, the climate crisis remains one of the most pressing problems. I therefore want to incorporate the wishes and perspectives of young people even more strongly into the shaping of environmental policy. The collaborative development of the youth study is just one example of this.”

Dirk Messner, President of the German Environment Agency (⁠UBA), said: “Most the respondents are convinced that the climate crisis can be slowed by taking joint action. Many are already taking action for the environment and climate, both in their everyday lives and at the political level, which I find encouraging. The years ahead until 2030 will be decisive in paving the way to sustainability and climate neutrality. This is why I completely understand that a clear majority of 81 percent believes that policy makers should pay greater attention to their demands on climate issues.”

85 percent of the young people surveyed believe that environmental and climate protection are important. That makes it one of the four most important issues for young people in Germany, along with the state of the education system (88 percent), the state of the health system (88 percent) and social justice (87 percent). In terms of their own behaviour, the study found that 62 percent often cycle or use public transport for everyday travel, 49 percent avoid plastic packaging, 23 percent often support online petitions for environmental causes and 40 percent have already participated in climate strikes. A clear majority of respondents say that each and every individual, but also the federal government, industry and business should do more to protect the environment and the climate.

About the study

The study was first conducted in 2017. The most recent surveyed a representative sample of 1,010 young people aged 14-22 in June and July 2021. The survey was conducted by the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW), the Holzhauerei group and Zebralog. A ten-member youth project advisory board was extensively involved in the study. The digital youth forum “Environment: future.climate.justice" [Jugendforum Umwelt: zukunft.klima.gerecht] will take place on 4 April from 2 to 6 p.m. to discuss the results of the study with young people and representatives of the Federal Ministry for the Environment and the German Environment Agency.

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

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06844 Dessau-Roßlau

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