The EPA is assembling its first-ever National Environmental Youth Advisory Council, a group of young people to weigh in on issues that affect their communities.
“We can’t tackle the environmental challenges of our time without input from our younger communities, who’ve long been at the forefront of social movements,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a press release yesterday.
The worst effects of climate change are still ahead as greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels keep building up in Earth’s atmosphere. The actions policymakers take today to curb that pollution will decide what kind of planet younger generations will inherit. So it makes sense for the EPA to create seats for them at the table.
“We can’t tackle the environmental challenges of our time without input from our younger communities.”
Applications are open now until August 22nd to join the council. It asks youth to write about why they want to join, including a media project like a blog, video, podcast, song, or piece of artwork. Anyone who wants to apply has to show “notable commitment to environmental issues,” like being involved in initiatives at school or through community projects. They also have to be US citizens between the ages of 16 and 29.
The EPA says at least half of the council’s members will “come from, reside primarily in, and/or do most of their work in disadvantaged communities.” That’s in line with Joe Biden’s “Justice40” initiative, which set a goal of ensuring that at least 40 percent of the “benefits” from federal investments trickle into “communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.” Even so, the citizenship requirement will be limiting to many young people from immigrant communities. I, for one, would not have been able to apply after moving to the US from the Philippines as a kid.
Each member will be appointed by the EPA administrator, and they’ll serve a two-year term on the council. During that time, they’re expected to attend meetings and make recommendations to the EPA. It’s still too early to tell how much power the council will have on actually influencing or crafting policy.
Of course, youth have found other ways to call for action on climate change — including through a historic climate trial that just came to an end this week. A group of 16 young people from Montana filed suit against the state, saying it violated their constitutional rights to a healthy environment through a policy that bars regulators from considering climate change when making decisions on whether to permit new energy projects. They’re still waiting for a ruling from the judge on the case.
The Biden administration faces a similar federal climate suit that another group of young plaintiffs filed against the US government back in 2015. After legal challenges from the Obama and Trump administrations, a federal judge recently allowed that suit to move forward to trial. That’ll be a big test of how committed the Biden administration is to listening to what young people want for their futures.