Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe. Yet few young people consider climate change to be a serious problem. Caritas therefore sensitises students in 60 secondary schools to the issue and supports them in taking concrete measures.
Kosovo is located in a region of Europe that is most affected by climate change. At the same time, the relatively poor country depends on two coal-fired power plants for its energy production, which emit a lot of CO2. Kosovo is also struggling with major environmental pollution and the overexploitation of its natural resources. Accordingly, its record on climate and environmental protection is negative - which in the long run has devastating effects on the environment, people's health and the economy.
The climate issue is therefore of great importance for the future of the country, especially since Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe: 53 percent of the inhabitants are younger than 25. The voice and concerns of these young people are therefore particularly important.
But while the majority of the population is concerned about the obvious environmental problems such as high air pollution and waste disposal, only a minority of young people consider climate change to be a major problem. There is simply a lack of public debate and broad awareness of the serious consequences of climate change.
Solar panels installed on the school roof
Caritas Switzerland wants to change this situation. Together with the Kosovo authorities and local partner organisations, it has launched a programme to inform and mobilise young people. Students in 60 secondary schools - more than a third of all secondary schools in Kosovo - are being taught about climate and environmental protection. «The young people take part in workshops and learn, for example, how to separate waste or save energy in a playful way,» explains Loucine Maugère, Programme Officer Kosovo at Caritas Switzerland. The workshops called «Climate Fresco» are organised in several European countries.
So-called eco-clubs are also being formed. Through them, topics related to climate and environmental protection are more firmly anchored in the classroom. In addition, the students develop concrete action plans for their schools and carry out projects.
«The young people are very motivated and start their projects with a lot of enthusiasm.»Loucine MaugèreProgramme Officer Kosovo at Caritas Switzerland
For example, a waste management plan has already been drawn up for one school. Solar panels have also been installed on the roofs of some schools and more efficient lighting has been introduced. The projects are financially supported by 17 of the 38 Kosovar municipalities.
The teachers are also challenged. They take part in further training and receive specially prepared teaching materials. In this way, the project can be established in the long term. The school material is published in Albanian, Serbian, Turkish and English.
Young people as partners of the administrations
A special feature of the project is that the young people are involved as partners of the municipal administrations in the preparation of the local environmental action plans. The aim of these plans is to achieve a sustainable reduction of CO2 emissions in various sectors such as energy, transport and industry. Youth awareness and mobilisation also increase the pressure on local politicians to seriously pursue the implementation of these plans.
In addition, communities, young people and civil society organisations carry out joint campaigns on climate and environmental protection. The project also promotes the networking of young people with national initiatives and conferences where they can present their work. Through all these measures, the forces of the various social actors can be combined and the youth can be directly involved. This raises awareness of the need for action in Kosovo in the face of the serious consequences of climate change.
Written by von Vérène Morisod, Communication Officer, Caritas Switzerland
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