Contemporary issues in youth policy

Sustainable development, or the ability of society to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, is one of the most pressing issues of our time. The impacts of climate change pose immeasurable and imminent environmental, economic, societal, humanitarian, and health risks for all people on the planet, but with special significance for young people. Children and young people will inherit the impacts of today’s environmental degradation, bearing the generational burden of environmentally destructive practices.

Climate justice seeks to rectify the disproportionate burdens imposed on particular vulnerable groups, such as youth, but also significantly communities in the Global South as well as low-income communities in the industrialised North, which grapple with consequences primarily caused by unsustainable practices in richer regions and communities. Young people are seen as playing a unique role in advocating for climate justice and a more sustainable future, recognised as “critical agents of change” who are key to challenging and changing current unsustainable economic and political models. Youth organisations are seen as on the frontlines of this battle, as central actors in the mobilisation and empowerment of young people in the fight for sustainable development.

Although this is an area young people identify as a priority issue for them, the role of youth policy is relatively underdeveloped. Policy interventions to support the engagement and participation of young people, youth organisations, and civil society in promoting sustainability could be explored, as well as the role of intergenerational dialogue in climate justice.


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This page was last updated by Cristina Bacalso and Dan Moxon in December 2018.

Young people’s views Young people’s views

Youth Goal #10 “Sustainable Green Europe”, calls for Europe to:

Achieve a society in which all young people are environmentally active, educated and able to make a difference in their everyday lives.

The goal identifies that “nowadays we consume in a way that our environment can’t handle. Society needs to act against climate change and the growing environmental threats. But our society cannot solve a problem that it is not willing to acknowledge. That is why everyone including young people has to start taking responsibility for their actions, and impact on the life of future generations. Becoming sustainable is not a choice, it is an obligation.”

Our glossary on youth Our glossary on youth