Today, I am delighted to welcome Leanne Tough from the RSPB Phoenix Forum – which represents around 56,000 teenagers that are members of the RSPB Phoenix – to talk about her experience speaking up for young people at Green Week in Brussels, and why we need to protect the EU Nature Directives now, if we want a future rich in wildlife.
Green Week (3-5th June) is a conference and ideas pool held by the European Commission in Brussels. It’s the kind of event that not many people get to attend, let alone teens, but not only was I lucky enough to be there – I was given the opportunity to speak, twice!
While we were in Brussels, we met MEPs, a senior UK Representative for the Environment, heads of huge NGO’s like BirdLife International, and many other powerful people. I had a whirlwind three days, and came back inspired and with a new grasp of how biodiversity and the EU Nature Directives figure in our daily lives.
The focus of our mission was to speak out against changes to the EU Nature Directives. Hopefully you’ll have read a bit about them and signed up to the campaign to keep them as they are. And if you haven’t done it yet, please do it straight after reading this blog post! The “NDs” are made up of two major pieces of legislation: the Birds Directive, and the Habitats Directive. These are laws which protect thousands of species and habitats, and have more of an impact on you than you might think - 98% of EU Citizens live within 20km of a Natura 2000 site protected by these directives. They also protect water, food, climate, air and health – so we felt that we were speaking for our lives, and your lives too.
At a time when 25% of Europe’s wildlife is at risk of extinction, it seems inconceivable that our most important laws could be weakened. We must instead focus all of our attention on ensuring that the Directives are properly implemented, so they can fulfil their potential to restore nature. They should not be seen as a roadblock to growth, but rather as a pathway to a sustainable future in which young people can grow up in a world in which they flourish alongside nature. Further biodiversity loss would leave us impoverished on many levels: economically, emotionally and culturally.
Those that are in power have a responsibility to use the Directives to not only protect the nature that we still have left, but to restore the biodiversity that has sadly been lost at such an alarming rate over the last 50 years.
The decisions taken by many of the people attending Green Week really will have a profound impact on the future of this planet - and the futures of young people across the continent. At the closing session, where I was bold enough to speak “on behalf of all young people in Europe,” I urged Frans Timmermans (Vice-President of the EC) “not to allow the Nature Directives to be opened up and weakened, but to instead ensure that they’re properly implemented, so all the joy and health benefits that nature gives me, can be enjoyed by Europe’s citizens in the future”.
So if you haven’t already, please make sure your voice is heard too, and respond to the consultation. If we want a future that is richer in wildlife - we need to save the Directives, now.
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