Minister of Portugal at COP25: “It is crucial to include young people’s opinions in policy-making processes”
On the 11th of December, while the European Commission is launching the European Green Deal, the Portuguese Ministry of Environment and Climate Action is organizing the side-event “Portugal Long-term Strategy: enhancing 2030 targets&making finance flows work towards carbon neutrality in 2050” at the European Pavilion.
The hot topics of the session are decarbonization and sustainable financing following the footsteps of the LTS of Portugal which declares the achievement of carbon neutrality by 2050. And yet, what is the role of the civil society in this great transformation?
This ambitious challenge cannot be embraced without the involvement of the citizens. It is necessary to reach out to them and support them in dealing with the transition, and one first step is through literacy. Translating the vocabulary and explaining to them what green and sustainable finance is and what are the implications and risks of the transition towards a new economic model.
Thinking about civil society and the necessity not only to change systems but also mindsets, we felt it was important – especially in the context of the COP25 – to address the questions of youth participation and education to the Portuguese Ministry of Environment and Climate Action. Below the interview to João Pedro Matos Fernandes.
We know that Portugal is in a phase of renewal of the National Environmental Education Strategy. What is your opinion about the Strategy?
Three years ago, we simply didn’t have a strategy for environmental education. Now we have one and, per year, we are investing between 1.5 million euros and 2 million euros in different projects that come from schools, NGOs, universities, local associations, and municipalities. We are supporting all those good projects, first, in a very wide approach and, second, we are focusing on those subsectors according to what we think it is important to Portugal. We have specific tenders for efficient use of water, specific tenders for mobility, and specific tenders for the management of land use in territories with less demographic density.
What is the importance of youth participation in events such as the COP?
What is the importance of youth participation in environmental policy-making processes in Portugal?
Youth participation is growing, and I think that youth participation is really important on two different levels: first, because I think that youth and young leaders are very committed with the fight of climate change and they are spreading the message inside their generation, but not only their generation, also all the other generations are listening to young people. And at the same time, from what we have written now and what we have in Portugal, most of those actions of education for environmental practices are focused on young people. So, I think that they are both the ones who promote those kinds of initiatives and the target of the initiatives that already exist.
We are trying to have a formal way to include young people and youth associations in the new strategy for environmental education. When you asked in the first question what the main driver of the renewing of this kind of policy is, I have no doubt that it includes young people’s opinions of what this country should be and how sustainable it should be, it is crucial.
How does the Ministry of the Environment see the possibility of collaboration to organise a Local COY (International Youth Climate Conference) in Portugal, as proposed by the Portuguese Association of Environmental Education (Aspea)?
We will never be the promoters, if someone knocks at our door, we would be delighted to do our best to organize it in Portugal.
Since Portugal plays an important role in the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, how could the country better support the participation of young people from CPLP countries in the next COP?
We have a strong relationship in cooperation with those countries, but there is a principle that I will always support: I never tell anyone what they should do, when I talk to other countries. So, if other countries bring us projects to do so, we will of course support them with the budget that we have for those countries.