European countries are spending big to revive their economies, but they will have no legitimacy with young people if they ignore the climate
The future of Europe depends on climate action. This is the resounding message that young Europeans have delivered to their leaders over the past two years. To be sure, the wave of young climate activists across the continent, from Fridays for Future to Extinction Rebellion, is part of a global response to the climate crisis. But for the EU in particular, it is also a warning from a new generation of Europeans to their leaders: our European identity hinges on your climate policies.
For our parents’ generation, the European Union defined itself as a protector of peace, a fortress against fascism and a society of (relative) social security. For our generation – we are in our mid-20s – this narrative does not resonate. We came of age in a Europe of crises: a financial collapse, a panic over migration, a surge of populism. These formative moments gave the lie to the notion of a united European identity. To many of us, the EU appeared less a project of democracy, diversity or solidarity than one of bureaucracy, xenophobia and fracture. What is more, Europe’s responses to these crises were hardly material for a new common narrative. Just the opposite: the responses were the crises.