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19th Nov 2019

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Nordic PMs meet youth to close climate gap

Turned down by climate activist Greta Thunberg at the Nordic Council awards show in Stockholm on Tuesday evening (29 October) the Nordic prime ministers got a second chance the following morning to set things straight with their youth.

At the initiative of Iceland's green prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir, nine political youth leaders were invited for a closed meeting with the eight Nordic prime ministers in the margins of the Nordic Council this week in Stockholm.

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The talks between the generations lasted for one hour and was the first ever of its kind.

"It was extremely useful, fruitful and inspiring", said Jakobsottir at a press conference after the meeting. "I hope this dialogue with young people will not be just a one-off", she added.

"Incredible positive", said also the Danish social democrat prime minister, Mette Frederiksen. "This is a generation of thoughtful people. Perhaps this is a sign that we are entering a new chapter of the climate debate, where we move to action".

"I was very happy for the contributions that the youngster brought on environment as well as about our society in which we ought to leave no one behind," added Greenland's social democrat prime minister Kim Kielsen.

"Children in future should not have to look up in books to see what a bird looked like or a whale. We need to stop pollution of the seas now and avoid that animals get wrapped in plastics from within", he added, pointing out that many people in Greenland live from the nature.

Norway's conservative prime minister, Erna Solberg, also sensed the urgency. "We are pressured on time, on tempo and on doing more", she said.

But what did the young people think after the meeting?

"The important thing is what happens next. If this was it, I will be a little bit disappointed", Faroese social democrat youth party leader, Barbara Gaardlykke Apol, told EUobserver.

She served as the president of the Nordic Youth Council until this week and was one of the nine young Nordic politicians invited for the meeting.

The Nordic Youth Council is an advisory body to the Nordic Council which mirrors the political composition of the parliaments in the region.

It is from this group of young politicians that the next generation of political leaders often is recruited.

"The invitation for the meeting came just two weeks ago", Apol told EUobserver.

"We were happy to be invited. But we could also feel that we were talking with politicians and we did not always get the concrete answers, that we wanted, for example on an end-date to the use of fossil fuels in the Nordic regions", she said.

"They tried a bit to avoid the question and talk around it. It is a sensitive topic for many of the politicians. I guess specially for the Norwegian prime minister", Apol added.

"She did the right thing and sent a strong signal," Apol said about Thunberg's decision to refuse to accept the Nordic council's environment prize.

"I think Greta Thunberg's statement [at the awards ceremony] was really strong and I completely agree with her, that the climate and the fight for a more just world when it comes to the environment should be taken seriously".

Nicholas Kujala, a 24-year old Finn, replaced Apol as new president of the Nordic Youth Council this week but it was too late for him to receive an invitation for the meeting with the prime ministers.

Kujala is a member of the Swedish People's party in Finland, which is a centre party.

"The feelings might be quite mixed," the said about the meeting with the prime ministers.

"Young people were unfortunately not involved in building up the 2030 vision for the Nordic region. And now we are asked for feedback to it. It is not real involvement", he told EUobserver.

"We could have brought valuable thoughts to the project. It is not a bad vision, but it could have been more ambitious".

Kuiala believes that we are heading towards a time where young people will become much more political active due to changes in climate and followed potentially by a rise of food prices.

The Nordic parliamentarians are aware of the young generations concerns over the climate changes.

Several parliamentarians also voiced democratic concerns over the gap that it has opened up between the established political institutions, such as the Nordic council, and the young people living in the Nordic countries.

"We do not only risk to lose the climate but to leave a generation of children and adolescents behind without faith in democracy as the method to solve the biggest challenges of humanity", Mette Frederiksen, the Danish premier, summed up the situation.

She will be in charge of the Nordic council of ministers in 2020 and responsible for any follow up to the prime ministers meeting with young politicians.

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Nordic PMs meet youth to close climate gap

Eager to engage with climate-engaged youth, eight Nordic prime ministers met with nine young political leaders in Stockholm for the first time this week. But did the youngsters take the bite?

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