About YCL in Berlin, August 2019

This piece was written by a guest writer, Anna Yureva from Minerva Schools at KGI. She is currently spending a semester of university in Berlin and was accepted to attend YCL's annual conference. Below she shares her experience with us. Follow Anna's journey or get in touch with her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

How green is Berlin?

I am getting my bachelor's degree living in 7 different countries and often get a chance to intern in organizations that are tackling different aspects of the climate change crisis. Having lived and explored Russia, the U.S., Korea, and India I realized that the largest countries in the world are doing close to nothing to prevent and mitigate the adverse effects of anthropogenic climate change. Before moving to Berlin for the fall semester, I got a generous scholarship to participate in the Youth Climate Leaders conference in early August. YCL is a learning journey for young people passionate about solving the climate change crisis. Its mission is to help kick start careers in the field of climate change.

Frankly speaking, I had high expectations for Berlin and thought of it as one of the most sustainable cities. It turned out to be true in a lot of ways but many experts that we met said there are a lot more issues to tackle. During the two-week journey with YCL, I got to visit organizations, work on my career plan and develop a group project on sustainable urban planning. In this post, I’ll share what I learned from visiting more than 12 organizations in Berlin and Bonn.

Having a welcome dinner at Kernvoll Vegan Catering in Berlin

Can activism save the world?

From street protests to think tanks and public awareness campaigns German citizens are involved in all kinds of climate activism. During our journey with YCL, we met with representatives of the Germanwatch, Critical Mass Berlin and FridaysForFuture to learn about the important work that they are doing.

FridaysForFuture is a famous global youth movement lead by Greta Thunberg. Tens of thousands of schoolchildren across the world come together to strike every Friday to protest against political climate inaction. Germanwatch is a nonprofit that seeks to influence public policy to bridge the inequality gap between the north and south. Critical Mass Berlin gave us a tour of bike infrastructure in Berlin and told us how they are working towards a more bike-friendly Berlin.

During my YCL journey, I learned that activism is one of the most powerful tools in climate action. I used to undermine the importance of activism and believed that government and businesses determine the outlook of the world. However, little change would be done if activists would not criticize the actions of corporates and governments. We need activists to make sure that society works for the benefit of the people.

Critical Mass Berlin Bike tour

Protests about unethical fast fashion

Public policy in the climate crisis

Governments have a critical role in solving the climate crisis. And not just global and national governments, but also cities and localities. We got to visit GIZ - a german-based organization that is working directly with city governments to promote cooperation for sustainable work. They employ more than 17,000 people and have a presence in more than 130 countries and have the largest presence in South America.

Their work focuses on improving infrastructure, climate action and education. We also got a chance to visit IASS - an Institute for advanced sustainability studies which are bridging the gap between science and the implementation in the policy. Lastly, we got to visit the UNFCCC in Bonn and talk about the challenges of international cooperation in tackling climate change. Dr. Koko Warner compared the world to a large ship and explained that turning this ship around is a long and tedious process. She emphasized the importance of activism on the local and national levels to make sure that each country fulfils its Paris agreement NDCs.

Visiting UNFCCC in Bonn

Business and investment for a greener world

Lastly, we got to explore the investment and business side of climate actions. We went to the ECF farm that grows basil and Cichlids fish. On their urban farm, they use resources efficiently, for example, they create fertilizer from the fish tank. They got their initial funding through a newspaper and then built the farm completely on their own. Now they offer individual plans for entrepreneurs who want to bring urban farming to their cities. Agora Energiewende is a think tank that develops frameworks and recommendations for energy policy stakeholders. They make a cost-benefit analysis to make green energy more affordable. Investment in renewable energy comes primarily from individual investors, farmers, and projects, not traditional investors. And Agora’s mission is to support the transition to more sustainable energy sources.

Talk at the Agora Energiewende

ECF urban farm and community garden in Berlin

Youth Climate Leaders' immersion has given me a chance to explore climate action from different perspectives. I got a chance to visit political organizations, businesses, and NGOs that are united by a shared goal of climate action. It was incredibly inspiring to learn about how action was taken on different levels. The scholarship to attend the YCL allowed me to gain tools, contacts, and experience to prepare myself for an impactful career in climate action.

Thank you!