Sustainability – AEGEE-Europe | European Students' Forum AEGEE (Association des Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l’Europe / European Students’ Forum) is a student organisation that promotes cooperation, communication and integration amongst young people in Europe. As a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit organisation AEGEE is open to students and young people from all faculties and disciplines – today it counts 13 000 members, active in close to 200 university cities in 40 European countries, making it the biggest interdisciplinary student association in Europe. Wed, 18 Apr 2018 09:33:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 EU Energy targets for 2030. On the way to 2050? /eu-energy-targets-2030/ Tue, 01 Apr 2014 08:50:55 +0000 The European Union strives for less than 2 degrees temperature rise this century in comparison with the pre-industrial times. In order to reach this goal, scientists have calculated that the carbon emission should be reduced by 80% in 2050 (1). There are different ways in which this reduction could be reached: achieve a higher energy efficiency, increase the use of renewable energy, and reduce the share of polluting energy sources are ways to decrease the greenhouse gasses emissions.

Every ten years, the European Commission proposes new mid-term energy targets. The current energy targets are set for 2020, and the first energy proposal for 2030 was recently voted upon in the Parliament. The proposal of the European Commission for 2030 is a 40% reduction of greenhouse gasses and reach a 27% (non-binding) share in renewable energies in the mix. The Parliament voted in favour on a resolution of 40% reduction of carbon emission, 30% share of the renewable energy market and 40% energy efficiency improvement by 2030. The Parliament criticised in this way the proposal of the European Commission (2): the renewable energy target is set to 20% in 2020, and increasing it only by 7% in 2030 would be unambitious. Furthermore, there are no national targets for renewable energy, which makes the Member States unaccountable. Additionally, the energy efficiency should be a very important objective, and there is no target set about this topic in the proposal of the Commission right now. However, the resolution of the EP is not binding, and the final proposal will be voted upon by the new Parliament in October.

In an analysis of the Friends of the Earth,  a decrease of 60% of carbon emission would be in line with the targets of 2050, instead of the 40% proposed right now. In total there should be a reduction of 80% in carbon emission by 2050 to strive for less than 2 degrees temperature rise at the end of this century (compared to the pre-industrial times). The reduction of only 40% in 2030 means that after 2030 there should be still an additional reduction of 40% in 20 years. There are no changes in the Emission Trade System so far, and the carbon prices will be low until 2030 when nothing is done (3). Internationally, Europe will continue the trend of losing its leading position in carbon emission with this proposal. The US and China will probably have more ambitious plans and targets to reduce their carbon emission in the future.

We wonder: where is the voice of the scientist and the youth in this proposal? The knowledge of the scientists is used to support decisions when it is in the benefit of the decision-makers, but non-scientific arguments become suddenly more important when the scientific facts are not pointing in the direction of the interest of the political forces. The youth has the power to reform the present in order to preserve the future; their voice and their concerns should be heard!

For many European citizens, the legislators in Brussels seems to be the big angry power which limits the growth of their countries when they impose a limitation of the carbon emissions. It is the responsibility of governments to explain why these energy targets are so important for the future of Europe, and show that this is the only way for a long term successful economy. We should develop not by bringing the healthy future of our planet and children in danger, but striving for a sustainable Europe.

To the decision makers we would like to say: about the importance of a sustainable future, do not only talk but act accordingly!

Written by Iris Hordijk, Policy Officer of AEGEE-Europe for Sustainability

The follow up of the COP in Warsaw /the-follow-up-of-the-cop-in-warsaw/ Tue, 07 Jan 2014 10:33:09 +0000 The voice of the youth in at the Climate Change Conference in Warsaw: how serious is the new generation taken in the sustainable development of the world?

From  11th to 22nd of November, the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) gathered in Warsaw for its 19th Conference of the Parties (COP)1. In the capital of Poland the parties attended the Climate Change Conference to discuss and draft an agreement on the way forward to a new global climate deal in 2015. This deal will be implemented in the participating parties from 2020 on, once the second commitment period ends.

It was very surprising the little attention media paid to the COP in Warsaw. I expected more articles in newspapers, interviews and media attention for this climate conference. Perhaps the media thought that the outcome would not be interesting, or decided that people are fed up of bad news that the earth is in danger and do not need any more calls to act now.

The outcomes were not that ambitious indeed; I will just mention the three most important ones. First, the Green Climate Fund (a fund to help developing countries to cope with climate change)  has a board right now, and soon they will fulfill the essential requirements to receive, manage, program, and disburse financial resources.  By 2020 the fund will receive 100 billion US dollars. The 4th of December the fund opened the headquarters in South Korea. Second, the Warsaw Framework REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) program pledges for 280 million dollars from US, Norway and UK. The REDD+ is initiated to stop deforestation and forest degradation on a global scale. Third, the Adaptation Fund, a fund to finance national projects on climate change adaptation, has received money from developed countries.

The outcomes of the Climate Change Conference were quite disappointing for the international youth and environmental and climate justice groups. Thirteen environmental and climate justice groups, Greenpeace, World Wide Fund and Oxfam International included, left the COP before the closing of the conference and made this joined statement: “The Warsaw Climate Conference, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver virtually nothing.” Especially in the latest months, when you could read and see how many people become a victim of the typhoon at the Philippines, a clear example of climate change, it is necessary to take our responsibility. As an interesting contrast, outside the conference center the lobby for coal industry was taking place. The expression ‘green’ coal is still something hard to understand.

NGOs leaving the COP

The Conference of the Youth took place one week before the COP and it was a preparation for the Climate Change Conference. During the COP the youth organisations and delegates worked together to lobby for action. Also other youth initiatives were taken, such as a climate train departing from Belgium2 with 700 young people in total on board. Overall, the feeling of the youth was that their voice is not heard, or not seriously enough taken, although climate change is something that will develop further in the future and affect us specially.

The next COP will be held in December 2014 in the capital of Peru, Lima. Youth will speak out loud and make sure its voice will be heard during this COP . Most of the big leaders in the world are driven by a financial motive, but without a world to live, money is nothing worth. We, Youth, will not give up and we will fight for a healthy future for yourself and the Earth!

Written by Iris Hordijk. AEGEE-Europe’s Policy Officer for Sustainability.

1 The UNFCCC consist of 195 parties and 192 of them adopted the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. 37 States in total are legally bind to emission limitations and to reduction commitments. The ultimate objective is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level  that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.

2 See the link



#FreeTheArctic30 /freethearctic30/ Sun, 06 Oct 2013 06:56:10 +0000 Company wrecks climate. Climate melts ice. Company prepares to drill even more oil. NGO protests drills. Coast guard attacks NGO’s boat. Crew are called pirates. Pirates are locked up. The end.

Or is it?

Today, October 5, in 160+ cities around the world citizens stood together with the Arctic 30, their families, friends, and colleagues. #FreeTheArctic30 became a global cry for justice, as those 28 Greenpeace activists, along with 2 freelancers are in a Russian jail, facing piracy charges. Criminal charges which even Russian president Vladimir Putin has dismissed.

Following a successful protest at the Prirazlomnaya oil platform in 2012, Greenpeace activists attempted to board the rig again on September 18. Their mission: to stop Gazprom from producing the world’s first Arctic oil. Oil which Greenpeace and other environmental organisations say is neither wanted nor safe, given the extreme circumstances and remote location of Arctic drilling.

The activists barely began their climb up the side of the platform though, as they are hosed down with icy water by Gazprom employees, with 2 of them being captured at gunpoint and taken aboard a vessel of the Russian coast guard. Less than 24h later, while in international waters, their support ship the Arctic Sunrise is boarded and taken over by armed FSB forces, and towed to Murmansk, Russia.

According to several international law experts, this armed boarding and capture of a foreign (Dutch) ship in international waters constitutes a breach of international maritime law (UNCLOS). Ironically, after days of legal uncertainty, the Arctic 30 have now themselves been charged with piracy under Russian law, thereby creating a post factum pretext for the illegal boarding of the Arctic Sunrise.

While people gathered in peaceful protest from Seattle to Sydney and from Cape Town to Moscow, adding their presence to the more than 1 million emails sent to Russian ambassadors the world over, the Arctic 30 remain imprisoned in Murmansk. If convicted, they could face sentences of up to 15 years of jail. They are being treated as criminals, though their only crime consists of peaceful protest against practices which are putting the health of the fragile Arctic at serious risk.

As an organisation which above all values respect for human rights, in particular freedom of speech, AEGEE-Europe is deeply concerned about the situation of the Arctic 30. Each one of us should be given the liberty to peacefully express their views on the society they live in, without fear of political or criminal persecution. The Arctic simply is not a playground for ill-prepared mining companies, a topic AEGEE’s own Environmental Working Group will take up in its upcoming meeting.

AEGEE-Europe therefore wholeheartedly supports the Arctic 30, their families, friends, and colleagues in these difficult times. We further applaud the Dutch government for its decision to take legal steps to gain the release of the Arctic Sunrise and its crew, activists, and freelancers. Adding our voices to those of Amnesty International, WWF, and 1 million others, AEGEE-Europe calls upon the Russian authorities to immediately #FreeTheArctic30.

Written by Mathieu Soete, AEGEE-Europe’s Policy Officer for Sustainability.

Fighting Climate Change Starts At School /fighting-climate-change-starts-at-school/ /fighting-climate-change-starts-at-school/#comments Sun, 31 Mar 2013 08:03:19 +0000

“The Ministry of Magic has always considered the education of young witches and wizards to be of a vital importance. Although each headmaster has brought something new to this… historic school, progress for the sake of progress must be discouraged. Let us preserve what must be preserved, perfect what can be perfected and prune practices that ought to be… prohibited!


With those words, Dolores Umbridge enters the life of Harry Potter at the start of his 5th year at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. A little speech aptly interpreted by Hermione Granger as “The Ministry is interfering at Hogwarts.” Played by Imelda Staunton, these days, Umbridge is being impersonated by UK Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, or at least according to a post on the UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC) blog, calling Mr. Gove the Climate Change High Inquisitor.

Seriously now, what’s happening?

After the much-talked-about introduction of climate change into formal education curricula across the UK in 2007 — including the Brown ministry being taken to court over the distribution of Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth — the current Cameron ministry, in the person of its Secretary of State for Education Mr. Gove, has decided to take it off again. The change means climate change as such will be scrapped in the so-called Key Stages 1 to 3, roughly corresponding to primary and the first half of secondary school, or everyone under the age of 14.

Are they just reconsidering a small bit of policy then?

According to a spokesperson of the Department of Education, there is no need for concern, as “all children will learn about climate change. It is specifically mentioned in the science curriculum and both climate and weather feature throughout the geography curriculum.” Rita Gardner, director of the Royal Geographical Society, on the other hand, welcomes the change, saying that “in the past, in some instances, young people were going to start on climate change without really knowing about climate” and she expects students to be better prepared by the time they start discussing climate change earnestly at the age of 14.

Various other stakeholders were quick to denounce the Ministry’s move though, and with reason. Arguments range from the desired content of climate education, over the responsibility towards future generations, to what the government’s former science advisor Prof Sir David King calls “a major political interference with the geography syllabus.”

One of the loudest protests against the decision comes from a secondary school student, Esha Marwaha, a member of the UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC). Outraged by the move, Esha launched a petition which collected 25,000 signatures in less than two weeks, calling on Mr. Gove to “Keep Climate Change in the Curriculum.” A call supported by the results of a recent AEGEE survey on sustainability, where 73% of respondents asked for more attention for sustainability education.

Other opponents of the decision include John Ashton, former government climate change envoy, and Jim Hickman, author of “Will Jellyfish Rule the World”, a book about climate change aimed at 8 to 10-year-olds. Both disagree with Ms. Gardner’s claim that kids younger than 14 could not grasp the complexities of climate change. “We must never underestimate a child’s intelligence, or their capacity and eagerness to learn something new,” says Mr. Hickman, while Mr. Ashton also touches upon our responsibility towards the next generation: “We cannot let our children face such a journey without equipping them at the earliest possible stage with a compass.”

An approach which actually seems to work, and is being supported by climate campaigners and scientists who say teaching about climate change in schools has helped mobilise young people to be the most vociferous advocates of action by governments, business and society to tackle the issue. Coincidence then that the UK government is trying to eliminate climate education for young students?

Not according to Esha, who claims that “our government intend to not only fail to act on climate change themselves, but to obscure the truth, and any chance young people have to act.” Camilla Born, international expert at UKYCC shares her point of view: “It appears climate change is being systematically removed from the curriculum.” A frightening perspective, when at the same time in the US, the National Research Council is updating nationwide science standards to include climate change, building on the fact that “only one in five students feel they have a good handle on climate change from what they’ve learned  in school.”

Moreover, effective climate change education should include much more than just the scientific functioning of climate and weather. As Mr. Ashton puts it, “what’s important is not so much the chemistry as the impact on the lives of human beings.” This coincides with the findings of Rosalyn McKeown Ph.D. in her seminal Education for Sustainability toolkit, where she states that we need more than a theoretical discussion at this point, and that education therefore needs to be used “as a tool to achieve sustainability”.

Finally, the Ministry defends its decision by pointing out that the change would not forbid the teaching of climate change — which, luckily, prevents this from being a perfect Umbridge parallel — but allows ‘sensible teachers’ to introduce it whenever they feel ready for it. Mr. Hickman draws a complete comparison between the current and proposed guidelines to prove this possibility, but not every teacher will read those guidelines with the same intent of adding climate change on his own initiative. As Mr. Ashton points out, the changes “would make it legitimate not to do so.”

In conclusion, the Ministry tries to justify removing climate change from the lower curricula by using a list of highly debatable arguments, which have been strongly opposed by both scientists and civil society:

1. Climate change is too complex to teach below 14 — Wrong, we cannot start educating early enough.
2. Teaching climate change is still allowed — Wrong, it will only be effective when clearly supported.
3. Climate change is still sufficiently mentioned — Wrong, this change will decrease kids’ readiness.

AEGEE-Europe/ European Students’ Forum strongly supports actions and campaigns for a wide-spread presence of education for sustainability at all stages of the education curriculum. This was recently reflected in the almost unanimous vote of AEGEE-locals in the Netherlands for the topic as focus for lobbying by the Dutch youth council (NJR), which was subsequently confirmed at the NJR’s general assembly.

In times of increasing attention for sustainability in all parts of social life, removing climate change from the curriculum is not only illogical but also counter-productive in the joint effort for more sustainable ways of living. As Esha puts it: “All the people who are passionate about this issue call for more climate education, not less. We should be taking a step forwards, not backwards.”

AEGEE-Europe therefore supports the petition by Esha and the UKYCC, and urges the British government to reverse its decision and keep climate change firmly rooted in the educational curriculum. In the end, we all have to fight climate change or face its effects, and education is key in providing us with the knowledge and tools for doing this. Ignoring this fact is not serving anyone.


Written by Mathieu Soete, AEGEE-Europe Policy Officer on Sustainability

My aim as Policy Officer is to bring the opinion of AEGEE to the policy-makers while sharing opportunities for learning and action. But for this I need your input of course. So contact me at to share your ideas and questions.


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TUNZA: Youth goes for Sustainability /tunza-youth-goes-for-sustainability-2/ Thu, 21 Feb 2013 16:23:57 +0000 The UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) TUNZA International Youth Conference took place 10-14th February in Nairobi (Kenya), and it provided a platform for over 300 young people from 100 countries to come together to exchange information, best practices and most importantly, learn from each other.

European delegates at TUNZA Youth Conference

Participating in the TUNZA International Youth Conference allowed AEGEE to realize once more the enormous potential which young people have to act as change makers in the world. Our president Luis Alvarado represented AEGEE-Europe there and he discussed the outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference and the Post 2015 Millennium Development Goals with the other delegates. For one week they shared experiences, attended panels and workshops with the professionals working in UNEP, and prepared recommendations directed to the Governing Council of UNEP and the Member States (Global Ministerial Environment Forum). AEGEE played a strong role in the preparation of the recommendations that you can find here:

During the TUNZA Youth Conference the GEO-5 for Youth report was launched: a youth friendly version of the GEO (Global Environment Outlook) that the UN creates every 5 years to make the information accessible to young people around the globe.

Read here what Iris Hordijk, speaker of AEGEE’s Environmental Working Group, thinks of the publication:

If you want to change the world you have to begin with yourself. This well known quote from Mahatma Gandhi is obviously the main idea of the report TUNZA: Acting for a Better World from the GEO-5 for youth. The aim of the book is to show that there is still hope and that inspiring successful stories in a green and sustainable direction are happening every day.

This colourful report is written by and for youth. The part of the book named Our world and its challenges today deals with the explanation of the Earth as a closed system. Trough the population increase and unsustainable economic development the pressure on our blue planet is increased. The big challenges according the atmosphere, land, water and biodiversity are explained and the knowledge about chemicals and waste increased after reading. Not only facts passing the revue, also are successful case studies presented together with the things you can do about the problems. Not only youth is dealing with the question how we can strive for a better world, in the politics it is also a point of debate. A description about the RIO+20 conference and the vague outcomes are discussed. Because of the vague outcomes from RIO+20 so far it is very important to act yourself! The tools and tips to contribute to a better world yourself are present as well. Do you want to spend 1 minute or 1 decade to change the world? It is up to you, but it is clear that it is necessary for the maintenance of our planet that the world has to change! Can you imagine a better point to start with yourself and the young generation?

You can check yourself downloading the GEO-5 for Youth:

AEGEE strongly encourages all European youth to find out more of the TUNZA youth network of UNEP, where you will be able to learn and empower yourselves to become youth environmental activists:

The “world’s most sustainable company” is European: Umicore /umicore-most-sustainable-corporation-2013/ Tue, 29 Jan 2013 01:29:46 +0000 DAVOS—Reason for celebration during the World Economic Forum for the Belgian clean-tech and recycling company Umicore, as they have been ranked as the world’s most sustainable company in the Global 100. Umicore CEO Marc Grynberg: “This recognition shows that we are on the right track.”

Since 2005, Canadian media and investment research company Corporate Knights has been putting together the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World index. This list, published during the annual high-mass of corporate capitalism in Davos, includes companies from 22 countries, with a total sales number of over $3 trillion, and employing 5 million people. Compared to previous editions, the share of European companies continues to increase, to a total of 56 this year. This figures reflect the efforts made in this field by the EU and countries like Norway and Switzerland.

Corporate Knights uses the results of its Global 100 index to explore sustainable investment strategies. Behind these results lies a two-step methodology. Over 4,000 companies worth more than $2 billion are first sifted down to a shortlist of 400, based on their general sustainability performance and financial health. In a second step, these are further graded along 12 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), including energy and water productivity, innovation capacity, CEO-to-employee pay ratio, percentage tax paid and leadership diversity.

This Global 100 clearly goes beyond purely environmental concerns, though not everybody is so positive about the exercise. According to Raz Godelnik, co-founder of Eco-Libris, the main issue with the index is that it does not give any objective bench-mark. Godelnik: “It is like providing you with the results of a 100-meter race without telling you what the 100-meter world record is—how can you tell whether the runners did well or not?” So in fact, it does not tell us much about the current state of sustainability in global business.

The fact, however, that two-thirds of companies on this year’s list also featured in the ranking of 2012, shows that the companies are committed to continue their sustainability efforts. Umicore, last year’s #8, precedes Brazilian beauty products manufacturer Natura Cosmeticos and Norwegian energy company Statoil, also the numbers 2 and 3 in 2012. In the words of CEO Grynberg: “Being recognised as the most sustainable company is foremost an encouragement to continue to grow our business in a sustainable way.”

So we hope that these 100 companies –more than half of them based in Europe– will continue to be “models for the art of the possible”, and show the way toward ever-more sustainable business practice. Of course, the entire Global 100 list only accounts for about 4.5% of global GDP. But it also has its value for the other 95.5%, especially in the development of the KPIs, and the possibility of measuring a company’s or organisation’s performance against them. Meanwhile, we congratulate Umicore’s management team and employees with their achievement, and wish them a successful year ahead!

From munironthemove blog
Written by Mathieu Soete
AEGEE-Europe’s Policy Officer on Sustainalility