Speech by Commissioner Kadri Simson at EUSEW
EU Youth Energy Day 2020
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Ladies and gentlemen, students and youth ambassadors, future leaders, good afternoon.
It is such a pleasure for me to welcome you to the first ever European Youth Energy Day.
It could not have come at a more important moment.
Today, we have two challenges on our hands.
The first has come into our lives suddenly and become the defining issue of 2020: COVID-19. The pandemic has impacted our lives and every sector of the society. And now we are feeling its deep impact on our economies.
The second challenge is less immediate, but equally severe: our changing climate. We are already seeing its impact on our planet: this has been the hottest spring in Belgium since records began! This might be a nice effect of climate change for those of us who want to spend time in the sun, but there is nothing nice in climate change for our environment or our biodiversity. And unfortunately we are set to see more and more changes like this for years to come.
Today is your chance to help tackle both challenges.
Before you kick-off, I want to share three ideas to help guide your discussions.
The first is that you have both the ability and the responsibility to do this.
We have chosen to bring you together to present your great ideas because we have no doubt that you can.
Your generation is more highly educated, more engaged, more activist and has more knowledge and technology at your fingertips than any that came before you.
At the same time, your generation will be disproportionately impacted by the success or failure of Europe’s recovery and Green Deal. You represent the next generation of European citizens, European leaders and European communities.
In fact, it’s all in the name: a few weeks ago the European Commission launched the Next Generation EU as part of the Recovery Plan for Europe. Because we know that we are not just ensuring Europe’s present, but we are safeguarding the future that your generation and the ones coming after will call home.
I know you are doing all that already
This type of tenacity and motivation, matched with your abilities, will help you to come up with the initiatives we need to change Europe’s future.
My second reflection for you today is consider every angle.
When considering what we need to accelerate the path towards a decarbonised continent, try to dig deep into every aspect of the topic you can think of. Ask yourself:
What can I do in my daily life?
What actions could be taken in my town, in my region, in my country, or at a European level?
What tools would I need to implement these actions?
What skills do I possess to move this idea from the drawing board to a reality?
What should the timeline be?
And importantly, how can the EU help me?
You don't have to have all the answers, none of us do! But wherever you do see an opportunity, don't be afraid to put it on the table.
Also, your ideas do not have to be complex to have impact. Energy efficiency is a key part to the Green Deal actions to reach climate neutrality. And one of the simplest ways to waste energy is through the mobile phones we use every day. We don't realise that just by running apps in the background, and unlocking and locking our phones time and time again we waste an enormous amount of energy.
Third, and finally, use your voice, but don’t forget to listen.
The breakout sessions are a great chance to make your ideas heard. And it’s also a great opportunity to meet others, exchange experiences and information.
Use this opportunity to listen to the views of others, whether their views agree with yours or not. It is a chance to learn, to open up your mind to new ways of thinking and to consider solutions that you might never have considered. Some of the greatest ideas and inventions in history have come from this kind of collaboration.
Think of the impact of the coffee houses of the 17th century. For the first time, people from all walks of life with different interests and different levels of expertise were brought together in one place. They discussed, they shared their knowledge. And soon, new ideas were born. We now see this exchange as being crucial to the spread of the enlightenment.
Now, I know you can’t meet your fellow participants for coffee. But you do have the opportunity to discuss, debate and exchange your knowledge.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As you know, the challenge to you today is to ask yourself “What are your ideas for achieving the Green Deal and Recovery Plan for Europe?”.
I will leave you here to begin your discussions. My colleague Frans Timmermans will be with you later today to hear the results and listen to the ideas you have come up with. We have very high hopes and I am sure you will do great.
This is your moment to advocate and experiment for your future. Make the most of it.
I wish you the very best of luck.