Empowering global youth to take action on climate change

28 May 2014

An image from the presentation by IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven.

There are many voices in the ongoing debate over the role of the energy sector in climate change, but the people likely to be most affected over time aren’t often addressed, let alone heard.

Having grown up in the Netherlands in the aftermath of World War II, International Energy Agency Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven knows something about facing a problem left by an older generation. In a multimedia presentation made available today on iea.org, she challenges young people to make a difference in climate change, the defining challenge of our times.

“Young people are the future leaders of our world, and the ones who will inherit the decisions of my generation,” Ms. Van der Hoeven said of her video. “My hope is to express to them that their engagement is critical if the world is to transform our energy systems and avoid the worst of climate change impacts.”

Over the course of the seven-minute video, Ms. Van der Hoeven outlines increasing urgency of the climate change issue, detailing the consequences of staying on the world’s current path.  She describes how her generation rebuilt after war and expanded economies and food production. “But with the rise in living standards has also come increasing energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions,” she says. “We are now producing over 30 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year just from the energy sector.”

The video lists three key actions in the energy sector to limit the rise in global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees C: make a dramatic shift to renewable energy, use energy more efficiently and reduce emissions from remaining fossil-fuel use. Ms. Van der Hoeven – who began her career as a teacher – urges young people to inform themselves, engage others and reduce their own individual carbon footprint. But she says her most important message is for young people to embrace their influence, telling them, “You have growing importance, particularly on climate change, because it's your future ... and your voice carries great weight.”

The video of Ms. Van der Hoeven’s presentation, along with supplementary resources for both students, parents and educators, is available hereThe IEA will regularly add updated materials and resources to the site.   

The IEA works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 29 member countries and beyond, including enhancing international knowledge of options for tackling climate change. The IEA believes energy system transformation and action on climate change must come from all groups and sectors of society.