By Lowana Veal
REYKJAVIK (IDN) – On September 5, 2017 – two years after the United Nations adopted Agenda 2030 with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets – the Nordic countries jointly launched the Generation 2030 programme with the aim of speeding up implementation of Agenda 2030 through official Nordic cooperation.
The process had actually started the year before, in autumn 2016, “when a dialogue meeting was arranged in Helsinki”, says Fanny Rehula, project officer for the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM). At that time, it was decided to focus on SDG 12 (sustainable consumption and production), although activities supporting sustainable consumption and production should also relate to other SDG goals including goals 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15 and 17. The idea of a youth conference also emerged at this time.
One of the initial aims of Generation 2030 was to stress that, as agents of change, children and young people play a crucial role in the implementation of Agenda 2030, “and that emphasis is placed on active efforts to ensure a sustainable future for today’s children and young people, thereby making them an especially important target group and participant in Nordic efforts relating to Agenda 2030”, as their website says.
The emphasis on young people as agents of change has resulted in a number of activities. One of these was a recent conference in Iceland, at the tail end of an NCM meeting that was held in Iceland because the country currently holds the presidency of the NCM. The conference, with the theme of Youth Leading a Sustainable Lifestyle, consisted of round-table discussions and questions put by young people to Nordic environment ministers as well as short talks by Iceland’s education minister, Prime Minister and the new Secretary-General of the NCM, Paula Lehtomäki.
Moderators Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir and Saevar Helgi Bragason dubbed the conference “a dialogue to bring youth together” and said that footage from the conference would be shown at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals later in 2019.
Lehtomäki reminded participants that all five Nordic nations – Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland – had issued a statement in January 2019 about aiming for carbon neutrality. Part of the statement includes measures related to SDG 12 and youth, saying that the “common Nordic voice” will encourage climate-conscious consumer choices by developing information on how to reduce individual climate impacts, using existing consumer information schemes and initiatives, and giving youth organisations a clear role in awareness-raising on climate-friendly consumer behaviour.
Indeed, “the Nordic countries are already doing a lot when it comes to sustainability. Both nationally, but also through Nordic collaboration,” Lehtomäki told the conference. “One example is the Nordic Swan Ecolabel that has made it easier for consumers to make environmentally friendly choices for 30 years.”
“Another example is LOOP, Nordic Innovation’s acceleration programme that supports Nordic businesses with ventures for the circular economy to succeed,” she said.
Putting the issue into context, she explained: “Because we know that if everyone on the planet consumed as much as the average Nordic person does, we would need four planets. But we only have one. And it is struggling.”
Lehtomäki, who was Finland’s environment minister from 2007 to 2011, told the audience that she once attended a big conference where a large group of young people had asked: “Are you going to be the first generation who makes a change – or the last who doesn’t?”
Swedish schoolgirl activist Greta Thunberg, who started the climate strikes that have now grown into a global phenomenon, gave a short video presentation to the conference and brought up similar points.
Because she disapproves of air travel, she could not be present in person but in a statement prepared for the conference said: “We young people are the future and we are facing an existential crisis, the climate crisis. We young people didn’t create that crisis, we were just born into this world and there was a crisis, and yet we are the ones that are going to be most affected by it and that’s not fair.”
She emphasised the need for action. “We need to hold the older generations accountable for what they have done and what they keep doing to us, and then we need to act now, as every day that goes by without real action is a failure, and every year that goes by without real action is a complete disaster, so we need to do something now.”
Lehtomäki brought the same issue up in her speech: “Youth is calling for action. Politicians, businesses and other stakeholders – including myself – need to take this very seriously. Because the burden of climate change should not rest on youth, it should be carried and solved by those who are in the position to make the necessary changes today.”
Given that Thunberg started the Fridays for Future climate strikes in Sweden, has Generation 2030 been working with her in any way? No, says Rehula. But in relation to the climate strikes, although nothing has been planned, “youth as actors for change will continuingly be involved in the work of the Generation 2030 programme,” she added.
Conference participants heard that together with Iceland’s environment minister, Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson, Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir intends to set up meetings with the organisers of the student climate strikes. Like his Icelandic counterparts, Norwegian climate and environment minister Ola Elvestuen stated that meetings would be set up in Norway this spring to respond to the climate strikes.
Independent of the NCM and Generation 2030, youth councils have been set up in Iceland and Finland with the remit of working towards the SDGs.
Due to the focus on young people, the NCM, as one of the activities of Generation 2030, decided to sponsor three summits of young people from the ReGeneration 2030 movement.
ReGeneration 2030 is a movement for young people aged between 15 and 29 in the Nordic and Baltic countries. The summits, which are held once a year on the Åland Islands, are intended to implement messages and sustainable solutions which are then submitted to politicians, academics, stakeholders and other leaders. The first summit was held in 2018.
The 2019 Summit will work along the theme of Changing Climate, Changing Lifestyles and will focus on SDGs 12 and 13.
Regeneration 2030 was one of the organisers for the Youth Leading a Sustainable Lifestyle conference, participation in which was restricted to young people under 30 years of age.
Jakobsdóttir made the closing remarks at the Reykjavik conference. “Kids and young people have been demonstrating every Friday these past weeks here in Reykjavik, just like their peers all over the world, demanding real action for climate change for the sake of future generations. The future is yours and you are realising it and claiming it,” she said. “And we do not want to disappoint you.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 26 May 2019]
Photo: Gathered at the climate summit in Helsinki, from back left: Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment Ola Elvestuen; Denmark’s Minister of Energy, Utilities and Climate Lars Christian Lilleholt; Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg; Finland’s Prime Minister Juha Sipilä; Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdóttir; Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin; and Iceland’s Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson. Photographer: Laura Kotila/Valtioneuvoston kanslia
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