Young people should be given a much greater role in shaping climate policies across the Mediterranean as the region strives to slow and adapt to the rapid pace of climate change, local political leaders said at a pan-Mediterranean meeting on 7 February, with several urging the creation of youth councils.
The meeting of members of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM), which came at the start of the European Year of Youth and ten months before Egypt hosts global talks on climate change, heard impassioned calls from young politicians, who, as well as emphasising the region's vulnerability to climate change, warned of the political marginalisation of young people and women and highlighted the potential for cooperation between cities. Their concerns were reflected in recommendations adopt ed by ARLEM, with specific ideas aimed at empowering women, helping young politicians, promoting entrepreneurship among young people, and supporting cities and regions to take climate action.
Calling for a "healthy, fair, equal Mediterranean", Hadhemi Boukadida, a Tunisian member of the Mediterranean Youth Council, said that women are "seldom involved in political decision-making" in Tunisia even though a woman heads the government. Jonatas Cleto, a Cypriot delegate in the Mediterranean Youth Council, said: "Youth has a role as a serious stakeholder, not just because of the future, but because we are present" and said that the region's young are often treated with "condescension" or, when formally recognised by politicians, "relegated to a marginal role".
Anna-Kristiina Mikkonen, the leader of Savonlinna City Council in Finland and a member of the Young Elected Politicians programme created by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), urged municipalities across the EU to collaborate with towns and cities in the Mediterranean and to bring young people into the policy-making process. Savonlinna's international outreach includes a decades-long collaboration with the Egyptian Opera House in Cairo and musical masterclasses for young talents from Cairo, Baku, Izmir and Ankara. The city has also recently created a youth council to focus on issues of social protection.
The case for youth councils was also championed by Vincent Chauvet (FR/RE), mayor of Autun, and Marie-Antoinette Maupertuis (FR/EA), the first woman to become president of the Corsican regional assembly. Ms Maupertuis said that Corsica's experience of a youth assembly has provided a "very important point of view that shed a light on the policies that we wish to implement". Young people should be "actors and not just observers of policy" and youth assemblies should collaborate, she said. Mr Chauvet, a former member of the CoR's Young Elected Politicians programme, contended that "each stage of political decision-making should include local youth councils and they should be consulted on issues that involve them".
Mr Chauvet drew particular attention to the challenge of climate action, saying that Marseille – the site of the meeting – could "in future have the same temperature as Tunis currently has", according to scientists' predictions. The Mediterranean is currently warming "20% faster than the global average", as Jonatas Cleto said, a change that could worsen migration and should – he said – encourage more cooperation. "The Mediterranean should be ashamed, with bodies floating around the sea, and, with climate change, it will only get worse," he said.
The meeting, which was co-chaired by Arianna Censi (IT/PES), deputy mayor of Milan, and by Mina Bouhdoud, Mayor of Lagfifat in Morocco, brought together members of ARLEM's sustainable development commission and was held on the sidelines of the two-day Forum des mondes méditerranéens. The Forum, which was organised by Région Sud Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur as part of the programme of France's six-month presidency of the EU, also placed a strong emphasis on sustainability, inclusion, and young people.
Ms Censi spoke at the Forum, drawing attention to the potential of cities and regions to drive a society-wide shift towards green and sustainable development. Ms Censi said that Milan was using the model of the 15-minute city – in which daily urban necessities can be found within 15 minutes on foot or on bike – to "move beyond the division between downtown and the suburbs, in order to offer better services to citizens throughout the city". On climate adaptation, she said that metropolitan area of Milan, home to 3.2 million people, has "launched one of the most ambitious urban greening projects in Europe", with the aim of planting one tree per inhabitant.
Marseille will on 3-4 March host the European Summit of Regions and Cities, co-organised by the European Committee of the Regions and Région Sud Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.