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ENVIRONMENT

Young people ‘care about environment but do nothing’

Young people are aware of the need to care for and protect the environment but place it low on their list of personal priorities, a new study has found.

Young people 'care about environment but do nothing'
"Hello, China? No, you must be wrong about global warming, it's very cold here in Germany!". File photo: DPA

It must have been a depressing moment at the Federal Office for the Environment (UBA) when they opened the results of their latest survey.

It found that just 21 percent of 14- to 25-year-olds believed that an intact environment and the chance to enjoy nature were important parts of a “good life”.

That was nine percentage points fewer than the already disappointing 30 percent of the whole population who agreed.

“The present study shows that the readiness to change behaviour from an environmental perspective is especially decreasing among young people,” UBA president Maria Krautzberger said.

Although the under-25s are aware in the abstract of threats to the environment – with 94 percent saying that environment quality worldwide is “very bad” – closer to home it's seen as less of a problem.

A full 70 percent thought that the quality of the environment at home in Germany was “fine” or “very good”.

The study also showed “an awareness of the relationships between consumption demands in the West and environmental challenges in other countries,” with 84 percent of the young agreeing that Western lifestyles are responsible for environmental problems in poorer countries.

They're just unwilling to do anything about it, and young people are particularly reluctant to give up branded clothing and electronic gadgets, the study also showed.

Slightly more encouraging was their use of transport, with high proportions saying they travel on foot (33 percent), by bike (27 percent) or by public transport (25 percent) “always” or “very often”.

But the biggest cohort of the young remained regular car users, with 55 percent saying that das Auto was still indispensable to their everyday life.

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ENVIRONMENT

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction

Campaigners began a legal challenge against five German regions on Monday to force them to take stronger action on climate change, emboldened by a landmark recent court ruling in favour of environmental protection.

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction
Demonstrators from the Fridays for Future movement protest in Gießen, Hesse, with a sign saying "No wishy-washy, no climate lashing". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The plaintiffs are basing their case on a sensational verdict by Germany’s constitutional court in April which found that Germany’s plans to curb CO2 emissions were insufficient to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

In a major win for activists, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal government then brought forward its date for carbon neutrality by five years to 2045, and raised its 2030 target for greenhouse gas reductions.

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On Monday, 16 children and young adults began proceedings against the regions of Hesse, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland, with support of environmental NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH).

They are charging that none of the states targeted by the legal action have passed sufficiently strong climate legislation at the local level, according to DUH.

“The federal government can’t succeed on its own,” lead lawyer Remo Klinger said in a press conference, highlighting state competence in the area of transport.

DUH worked closely together with the youth climate movement Fridays For Future to find activists willing to front the challenges, the group said.

Seventeen-year-old plaintiff Alena Hochstadt said the western state of Hesse, known for its Frankfurt banking hub, had always been her home but she feared having “no future here”.

Concern about the risk of “floods, storms and droughts” led her and other campaigners to seek “a legal basis for binding climate protection”.

READ ALSO: Climate change made German floods ‘more likely and more intense’

Hesse’s ministers for climate and the economy said they were “surprised” by the announcement.

“DUH clearly has not yet understood that we in Hesse are well ahead,” Priska Hinz and Tarek Al-Wazir said in a joint statement, drawing attention to an energy future law from 2012, before the Paris climate agreement.

In July, DUH-supported activists took the states of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg to court on similar grounds.

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