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

Youth study: Climate action and environmental protection are popular among young people

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

Protecting the environment and climate action are hot topics for young people in Germany. A clear majority of the young population is interested in politics, willing to take action and places their trust in democracy. They expect policy makers to do more for the climate and environment and to be mindful of social justice. They also perceive potential in each and every person to do more for the environment. These are the findings of a representative survey among the young population entitled Zukunft? Jugend fragen [Future? Ask youth], carried out by the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW) on behalf of the Federal Environment Ministry and the German Environment Agency. Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze and the President of the German Environment Agency, Dirk Messner, discussed these topics at a youth forum on environment and climate held today and attended by around 80 young people ages 14 and older.

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said: "Young people are much more politically minded than many had assumed. Climate action and environmental protection are important to many young people, and they have been taking to the streets for longer than just Fridays in the past year. They get involved and are networking, fully aware of the responsibility their action bears for the future and often live lifestyles that are demonstrate awareness of the climate and the environment. Many have also realised that climate action and environmental protection must also take social equity aspects into consideration. This level of awareness among young people will provide environmental policymaking in Germany with great support over the next few decades."

UBA President Dirk Messner said: "Digitalisation has been a reality of life for young people for a long time which they do not call into question. However, they also recognise the risks it poses, such as the burden on the climate from devices and computer centres or raw material consumption. That is why it is all the more up to policy makers to steer the course of the transformation of society. If we play an active role in managing digitalisation, it can provide untold opportunities to improve people's lives while also protecting and sustaining our livelihoods."

More than 1000 young people ages 14 - 22 were surveyed by the Institute for Economy Research (IÖW) and partners in summer 2019. Young people were also involved in the process of designing the study including a ten-member youth advisory council. Youth identify environmental protection and climate change mitigation as one of the most important issues in Germany, with 45 percent rating it "very important" and another 33 percent as "somewhat important".

Other similarly important problems are the state of education and social justice issues. 87 percent say it is important to live in a democracy. A majority say elections and the EU are important. More than three quarters of those surveyed approve of these aspects. 

80 percent of those polled had heard of Fridays for Future. Nearly one quarter had already participated in the Fridays for Future climate strike demonstrations, and nearly everyone – 90 percent – said they could imagine doing so again. 87 percent said that social issues such as the coexistence of people, solidarity, justice and helping others were interesting or somewhat interesting. Environmental protection and climate change mitigation are seen as positive influences on social goal setting. 65 percent are concerned that future generations will suffer from massive environmental problems without adequate measures to protect the environment and climate. Another concern is that people with limited budgets should also able to afford environmentally friendly products.

The respondents see both chances and risks for the environment and climate in digitalisation. Social media are good sources of information and opportunity for exchange on these issues. In contrast, the environmental impact of e-commerce as a result of the transport and packaging of consumer goods are considered negative.

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

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06844 Dessau-Roßlau

Fotos von der Vorstellung der Jugendstudie

  1. BMin Svenja Schulze und UBA-Präsident Dirk Messner auf dem Jugendforum „Umwelt und Klima"
  2. Dirk Messner auf dem Jugendforum „Umwelt und Klima – Wohin wollen wir?“
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