Climate-conscious voters entrust E.U. ballots to their grandchildren

Image: Jim Platt, 79, has pledged to vote for according to his 11-year-old
Jim Platt, 79, has pledged to vote for a candidate of his 11-year-old granddaughter Lilly's choosing in next weeks' European Parliament elections. Copyright Robin Utrecht
By Linda Givetash with NBC News World News
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"The voice of young people needs to be heard."


Jim Platt is handing his vote to his 11-year-old granddaughter — and he's asking others to do the same to their young loved ones who will be left grappling with the effects of climate change.

The Briton who now lives in the Netherlands launched a campaign last month encouraging people to give their grandchildren a say in next week's European Parliament elections.

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Videos, posts and tweets promoting the idea have reached millions online and been shared by prominent climate activists including 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, grabbing the attention of environmentalists across Europe, and as far away as Australia.

"Any vote I make I don't have to live with the consequences of," Platt, 79, said in a video with his granddaughter posted online. "It will be me writing it but it will be your hand guiding it."

As around 373 million citizens of 28 E.U. countries prepare to head to the ballot box from May 23 - 26, Platt isn't the only one considering the impact their decisions will have on future generations.

Preliminary results of a global survey by the market research firm Glocalities suggests that seniors with children in Europe are more likely to prioritize climate action, improving water resources and clean energy than the rest of the adult population.

"They want a healthy living environment for future generations," said Martijn Lampert, who analyzes global lifestyle and value trends for the company.

Platt's campaign stemmed from the U.K.'s 2016 Brexit referendum.

Platt said he felt it was unfair that seniors — who were less likely to experience the long-term consequences of Brexit — would have a say while children— who would be affected through their lives — were left out.

"The voice of young people needs to be heard," Platt told NBC News. "Lilly, who understands the whole spread of climate change and what it means for the future ... I will cast my vote on her behalf."

Platt's granddaughter, Lilly, may only be aged 11 but she's already a leader in climate change action.

She has helped lead the school strikes movement in the Netherlands and launched a plastic litter pickup campaign.


Platt is no stranger to the environmental cause either. A geologist working in the mining sector, Platt said he became concerned about the impact the industry was having on land and in the 1970s began to develop environmental rehabilitation programs for the companies he worked with.

His care for the environment has rubbed off.

"He is a living tree of knowledge," said Lilly, attributing her concern of plastic pollution in the oceans to his teachings. "It is now my mission to protect wildlife inside and outside my house."

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Cross-generational concern about climate change isn't rare in the Netherlands.

A group of seniors who marched ahead of the Paris climate talks in 2015 formed the group Grootouders voor het Klimaat, or Grandparents for the Climate, and have continued campaigning for action by the Dutch government.

Twice a month, about two dozen members demonstrate and meet with officials outside parliament in The Hague.

Lowie van Liere, 75, joined the group when he became a grandfather two years ago. The retired aquatic ecologist who lives in city of Haarlem had long been concerned about the state of the environment but the birth of his grandson amplified those worries.

"All the things I knew became part of my emotions," he said.


Several fellow activists will be asking their grandchildren for their opinions on the ballot, he said.

Van Liere would be among them, but his grandson isn't ready for political discussions just yet, so he plans to instead vote with him in mind.

Neither the Grootouders voor het Klimaat nor Platt are advocating for any particular party to win, but are committed to supporting those with strong environmental policies.


The Green Party currently holds 50 of the 751 seats in the European Parliament, but polls suggest gains in the upcoming election will be minor.


Platt's ideas has also gained attention beyond the E.U. and has inspired Australian Parents for Climate Action to launch a #givethekidsyourvote campaign ahead of the country's federal election being held on May 18.

"My children are very young ... But the decisions society is making now will affect their future health, happiness and safety," said Heidi Edmonds, a parent involved in the campaign, in an email to NBC News.

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