"Parliaments, Climate Change, and Intergenerational Justice" Seminar

Evidence keeps mounting of the devastating impact of climate change. The August 2021 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns humanity that climate change is intensifying and that the impacts are being seen all around us and will only get worse unless serious actions are taken to limit and reverse our damage to the planet’s climate.

While climate change affects everyone, its devastating impacts are felt more severely by some regions and populations than others. Too often, those worst affected are those with the least voice and power to make change. Island countries, those affected by desertification, and vulnerable to extreme weather phenomena are often the poorest and most marginalized nations with little voice in international fora. There’s also inter-generational inequity. Obviously, with a rapidly worsening climate change outlook, young people and future generations will be continue to face growing threats to well-being and even survival. However, structurally, representative democracy represents those who currently vote. Not only does this of course exclude those under the voting age and future generations, it also typically marginalizes even young people of voting age who are badly underrepresented in parliaments and other elected institutions where decisions about how to address climate are made.

In this disturbing context, young people have taken the lead in insisting that our elected representatives do much more to come up with and implement real actions to limit climate damage and bring our planet back from the brink. Youth movements like the climate strike movement have highlighted the crisis and forced climate change to the top of the policy agenda around the world.

Nevertheless, the brave campaigning by so many young people does not impact the structural exclusion of young people’s voices in democratic decision-making. As soon as movements naturally subside, the voice and impact of youth concerns – whether on climate or indeed any other issue – risks again being marginalized, with potential devastating impacts for life on this planet.

In this interactive seminar we explored the question of Parliaments, Climate Change, and Intergenerational Justice from diverse perspectives. Our focus on parliaments underlined that they are the unique institution that engages citizens in the formal governance process in representative democracy, responsible for legislation, oversight of the executive, and voting the budget. Parliaments are at the heart of strategies to enhance inter-generational democracy.

The seminar began with brief presentations from leading activists and experts in the fields of parliaments, climate change, and youth democratic engagement. Then the session opened to participants to share their perspectives and propose practical solutions.

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