Open Parliament: Student Activism on Climate and Biodiversity 📝

As part of the French government’s citizens’ engagement platform, we proposed a new question for parliamentary debate. This time we chose to question the government on the possibility of instating a generalised form of recognition for voluntary student activism when it comes to biodiversity and climate change, to be implemented as of the back-to-school period this year. The idea would be to attribute higher academic points to all those students helping to fight climate change and doing good work for the planet.

As we wade through the ongoing health crisis caused by Covid-19, French President Emmanuel Macron announced on 13 April that all academic activity requiring a physical presence will now be postponed until the back-to-school period at the end of the summer. Lockdown measures are having an impact on all kinds of economic, academic and social activity, and this postponement only serves to highlight the importance and value of young people who actively partake in efforts to fight climate change and protect biodiversity all year round.

In 2019 alone, over 200,000 young people across France took part in all kinds of activities demonstrating their will to fight climate change, and many chose to put their good intentions into action by investing their time and effort in various movements and youth associations actively involved in showing that green actions every day can go a very long way.

That said, universities which explicitly recognise student activism as a constructive and integral part of the educational process are few and far between. Such efforts are quite simply not given the recognition they deserve under the current status quo, despite their impact being highly positive both for student development and for society as a whole.

Rare initiatives made by the likes of the Cîte d’Azur University and Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne University would benefit from being rolled out nationwide. Both of the academic institutions mentioned already reward student activism by attributing higher academic points to a student’s average grades on the basis of their voluntary associative work, which is something we wholeheartedly welcome. Doing so sends out a strong message and recognises the value represented by such work. Work that ultimately contributes to meeting sustainable development goals and achieving “the future we all desire” after all. This will be all the more relevant as we gradually emerge from the confinement conditions wrought by Covid-19 containment measures and begin to prepare for what will ensue.

As we enter a promised era of low-carbon footprints, as outlined in the French President’s post-crisis objectives, it would be interesting to glean some insight into the specific measures to be taken in order to provide some recognition for voluntary student activism in the fight against climate change and the preservation of the biodiversity that surrounds us.