The Guest Blog

 

Guest post by Eamon O’Hara, Executive Director and cofounder of ECOLISE

On 22nd September, policy makers and representatives of the thousands of community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability in Europe will gather at a conference in the European Economic and Social Council (EESC), Brussels, to launch the first ever European Day of Sustainable Communities (EDSC), which takes place the following day.

This Brussels event aims to engage European Union (EU) policy-makers and stakeholders, by demonstrating the vital role of community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability in achieving EU climate and energy targets. The following day, on the 23 September, events will take place across Europe, showcasing for the general public, policy makers and other stakeholders, the huge diversity of ways that local communities are taking action on critical global challenges.

Communities in 12 European countries have so far registered events to celebrate the first European Day of Sustainable Communities, including ecovillage tours in Spain and Italy, a harvest festival in Sweden, a lecture on rural eco-tourism in Serbia, a screening of the film ‘The Plastic Ocean’ in Wales, and much more.

The backdrop to this initiative is the explosion in recent years of citizen and community-led initiatives, driven by the desire of ordinary people, throughout Europe and the world, to be part of the solution rather than the problem. And the results are impressive, not just in terms of the scale of the mobilisation (now counting some 15,000 ecovillages worldwide, over three million permaculture practioners, and around 1,200 Transition initiatives) but also the positive environmental impacts: studies of CO? emissions in Danish ecovillages, for example, find they are 60 per cent lower than the national average, while Findhorn ecovillage in Scotland has the lowest documented ecological footprint of any settlement in the industrial world.

Transition initiatives are also achieving impressive results. The Transition Streets project in Totnes, England, involves 468 households, each saving at least 1.3 tonnes of carbon annually.

The EU-funded TESS project (2017) recently concluded that,
‘If just five per cent of EU citizens were to engage in effective community-led climate mitigation initiatives, the carbon savings would be sufficient for nearly 85 percent of EU-28 countries to achieve their 2020 emissions reduction targets.’

Just as significant as the direct carbon savings, however, are the wider environmental impacts, the awareness raising, the social cohesion, the creation of local livelihoods and retention of wealth in local economies and the feeling of empowerment that citizens experience by working together to bring about change.

Community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability are helping to mobilise citizens, change mind-sets and behaviour, and catalyse decentralised solutions based on social and technological innovations. However, these bottom-up approaches need a policy framework that enables action and fosters the spreading of such initiatives.

ECOLISE, the European network for community-led initiatives in climate change and sustainability, is working with policy makers to create such a policy framework, and the Brussels event will be another occasion to explore different options.

Speakers at the conference will include Philippe Lambert MEP; Artur Runge-Metzger, Director at DG CLIMA (European Commission); Rudolf Niessler, Director at DG Regio; Karl Falkenberg, former Director-General at DG Environment; Brenda King and Lidija Pavi?-Rogoši?, EESC members, Kosha Jouvert, Executive Director of GEN International; and Robert Hall, President of ECOLISE.

About the author:
Eamon O’Hara is the Executive Director and cofounder of ECOLISE, the European Network for Community-Led initiatives on Climate Change and Sustainability. ECOLISE is an alliance of 38 organisations, including the permaculture, Ecovillage and Transition movements, as well as other networks of initiatives, local authorities, research organisations and specialist training and technical assistance bodies.

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