Podgorica, February 1, 2022 – Young people in Montenegro have a strong awareness of the importance of climate change and a desire to take the necessary climate action. However, they do not have enough opportunities and chances to directly engage in climate change discourse and contribute to potential solutions. Today's young people are worried but at the same time hopeful for a better future – and they see themselves as part of the solution to the climate crisis. Thus, 74% of young people aged 18-29 years believe that climate change is a huge problem at the global level, while more than half (57%) believe that it is a big problem at the national level. This is shown by the results of the UNDP research on climate change, which was presented today at the conference Green Days 2022 – Youth and Climate Change: A Race We Can Still Win, which was held as a series of virtual talks.
Research conducted during the pandemic shows that young people are aware of the seriousness of the climate crisis that the world is facing (60%). One-third of the young people who were included in the research feel pain and shame because they consider themselves personally responsible, and therefore state that they respect and protect the environment. Three out of four respondents (3/4) are ready to change their life habits and reduce their impact on climate change. Over 50% of young people in Montenegro walk every day, try to reduce waste and rationally use electricity and water, while every other respondent points out that, whenever possible, they buy environmentally-friendly products.
This is a great potential for Montenegro and an advantage that decision makers must take into account when planning further development of the country, especially bearing in mind that Montenegrin schools do not have organized education on climate change, and that students gain knowledge about this problem through periodic projects and on the Internet. Therefore, it is necessary to officially and systematically introduce continuous and age-appropriate education on climate change and sustainable development into the school curriculum. The importance of climate change education is all the greater given that the Green Plan and the fight against the climate crisis are EU priority policies, and that the transition to a near-zero emission economy is expected to create over a million jobs by 2050, which requires the retraining of more than 120 million Europeans over the next five years.
State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development Dr Milena Lipovina Božović pointed out that the green economy is one of the foundations of the new paradigm of economic development of Montenegro, but that so far not much has been done in our country to promote projects that have a green economy component. “In every transition, the biggest challenge is to make it fair and not to reflect particularly negatively on the most vulnerable segments of the population, starting with the digital and technological gap and the information and educational gap. When it comes to incentive policies, the space for improvement and their introduction is really big and the public administration has to learn, try new things and change. This year, we plan to draft a Strategy for the Circular Economy, which will certainly bring significant innovations in this field,“ she said.
Lipovina-Božović emphasized that “the growth of the standard of living is a precondition on which this Government is seriously working, a precondition for people to turn more to these topics. If people are thinking about how to provide a living, they can hardly be on our priority list.“ The Secretary of State called on everyone to be constructive partners and to use their knowledge and skills to help Montenegro truly be an ecological state in the true sense of the word.
The Head of the Climate Change Directorate, Danijela Čabarkapa, presented the conclusions from the 26th Conference of the UN-COP26 Framework Convention, a summit held in Glasgow in November 2021, which “was marked by intensive negotiations to operationalize certain articles of the Paris Agreement and create conditions for its full implementation. Progress in the negotiations was assessed as positive, but a significant number of topics were referred for consideration at future sessions, which certainly supports the thesis that it is very difficult to maintain a spirit of compromise between developed and developing countries on many issues,“ Čabarkapa said.
Aneta Kankaraš, Head of the Department for Sustainable Development, says that “young people should be involved in decision-making within development policies at all levels. Youth participation needs to be organized in a way that is close to young people, from the way of informing for participation in decision-making, to participation in professional working bodies. In this context, the reform of the National Council for Sustainable Development, as an advisory body to the Government for sustainable development policy, to include youth representatives in its work is an excellent first step. By doing that, it will be ensured that young people's voices and opinions are heard and articulated towards decision-makers,“ Kankaraš said.
Nina Drakić, President of the Chamber of Commerce of Montenegro, pointed out that “it was necessary to improve knowledge about the meaning of terms related to climate change and invest in staff in companies that can respond to these tasks, in terms of providing professional and technical assistance in transforming their businesses as well as adjusting the business models to the requirements imposed by environmental protection. Successful transformation towards green business solutions requires more education, investment, facilitation and a favorable regulatory framework that enables and encourages companies to think in this direction. When it comes to climate change, the role of young people is also crucial, especially those who are thinking of venturing into entrepreneurial waters. It is very important that from their first steps in that direction, they think about how their actions and business will affect the environment, and what they can do to make things different, and adjust their actions and work to that,“ Drakić said .
UNDP supports Montenegro in building green and sustainable development and a strong economic recovery, with priority given to clean energy, sustainable mobility solutions and innovation projects – which are all crucial for all countries to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C or less, Daniela Gašparikova, UNDP Resident Representative for Montenegro said. She reminded that “UNDP would continue to support Montenegro in the revision of its nationally determined contributions (NDC). Montenegro's efforts to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels is a decisive step in the fight against climate change, while young people have a key role to play in shaping a sustainable future.
A young activist and a student of Ulcinj High School Diandra Kočan spoke about the need to raise awareness of the general public, especially the younger generation, about climate change. “We all have a right to a healthy environment. Young people are the least responsible for climate change, but we will live with long-term impacts and consequences. Therefore we have the right and obligation to participate in decision-making processes concerning our future,“ Diandra Kočan said.
Filip Bulatović, a young economist, believes that the younger generations have a strong awareness of this topic. “It is more than obvious that the younger generations are far more aware of this topic, and it is the number one topic of life for them, especially in Western countries. Climate change affects all parts of our lives, the economy, our jobs, agriculture, while weather troubles and extreme weather conditions, droughts, floods, fires – cause destabilization in the whole world,“ Bulatović said.
The Green Days 2022 conference organizers are the Government of Montenegro, the Chamber of Commerce of Montenegro and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
A recording of the conference can be found at the following link: https://youtu.be/pI-OeYxTdJw.