Faced with the ecological emergency, the views of the older and younger generations can clash, sometimes to the point of breaking down. Côme Girschig, 26 years old and a founding member of the Young Ambassadors for the Climate association, has just co-launched the Alliance of Generations, an initiative that brings together young people and retirees to work on climate projects in the territories. Interview.


You have just launched the Alliance of Generations. Can you explain its principle?

It is a space for exchanges between the older and younger generations so that they can work together on local and concrete climate projects. We started from the following observation: every year, hundreds of thousands of people retire whose experience is not used to advance the ecological transition. In the course of their professional careers, these people have lived through different moments of the climate battle and have a real perspective on it. In particular, they are aware of the mistakes they have made. Jacques Brégeon, 67 years old and founder of the Collège des Hautes Études du Développement durable, came up with the idea. We exchanged views together and I quickly decided to support the initiative, which was officially launched at the Talent for the Planet summit in Paris in October. Corinne Lepage, a lawyer and former Minister of the Environment, and Jean Jouzel, former vice-president of the IPCC, are our sponsors.

What form will this alliance take?

Nothing is set in stone for the moment because we want to co-construct the structure as people join us. However, we have defined three main components for this alliance. An event component through which intergenerational meetings will be organised around the ecological transition in the territories. These exchange spaces will not be reserved for climate activists because we want to remain transversal in our approaches. An online platform will also be created. Our members’ projects will be posted on it and the alliance will help them find funding and even replicate them at the national level. Finally, a think tank will publish reports or studies based on feedback from the field.

Leading youth climate activists such as Greta Thunberg have been vocal in criticising the irresponsibility of older generations. Is this relevant?
I don’t think we should take these speeches at face value. What is being criticised is first and foremost the way in which current governments refuse to question a model that is no longer sustainable. On this subject, the young people involved criticise above all the current decision-makers, whether they are young or not so young. I am not convinced that they hate their parents or grandparents! In the end, these young people are not denouncing a generation in itself, but the inability of some members of that generation to change. For all that, it is an absolutely necessary and welcome discourse. It disturbs and that is what is required of it. To generate radical change, this kind of radicalism in words is very useful. But this approach is totally sterile if it is not followed by action. It should also be noted that the strong political angle of Greta Thunberg’s speeches, to name but one, has made many other voices committed to climate change audible. In this sense, Greta is all the more relevant.

Since 2015, have you seen an improvement in intergenerational dialogue at the COPs?

Yes, definitely. Today, there are young delegates who participate in climate negotiations at the COPs. Young people have access to the UN General Secretariat and advise Guterres. At COP21 in 2015, this was not the case at all. Their influence in these bodies is limited, but it is undeniable that young people have more access to the decisive information and policy makers on the climate issue.