European youth win their CO2 emissions bet against the EU

A European youth movement that bet EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström that they could reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 8% in eight months, have succeeded.

‘The Bet’, in which around 52,000 young people from 16 European countries participated, was officially launched on 22 November last year, following the climate change talks in the Hague (see related story). Mrs Wallström will now have to ride her bicycle to and from work for a month as her penalty for losing. Had the ‘Betties’ failed in their task, they would have had to transported the Environment Commissioner to all her Brussels meetings in a rickshaw for a week.

“I hoped to lose, and let the environment win, when I entered this bet,” said Wallström. “When fighting climate change we shouldn’t forget what we as citizens can do in our everyday life. This is what the youth campaigners and all the participants in The Bet have demonstrated, with their ambitious and enthusiastic initiative. If multiplied by millions of people, many small steps can make a big difference.”

The Betties came from a total of 88 schools across Europe, and had to cut their emissions both at home and at school, achieving their goal through measures such as turning down the heating, installing energy-saving light bulbs, insulating rooms, repairing leaking water taps, and setting up recycling systems for paper. “Often very easy means can lead to a great saving,” said Jeroen Kuiper, the European co-ordinator of The Bet. “There is still a lot of educational work to do.”

“We really feel like winners with 300 participating schools saving over four million kilograms of CO2. That is a great amount all together,” said Henricke Wegener, a volunteer working for the Bet. “We showed that everybody can do something to stop climate change. We proved that CO2 emission reducing can be done easily, fast and cheap. All it takes is your own will and creativity.”

However, the European Environment Agency, which refereed the bet, also announced that the Betties had failed in their second objective, of saving eight million kilograms of carbon dioxide over the same period. Nevertheless, the organisation congratulated the participants for clearly demonstrating that where there is a will to combat climate change, there is a way.

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