Climate Emergency Communities – from Declaration to ActionJune 5, 2020
The latest UNEP emissions gap report states that global emissions must fall by 7.6% every year from now until 2030 to stay within the 1.5°C ceiling on temperature rises and to avoid disastrous consequences. While current carbon emissions – due to Covid-19 – are relatively low, historical data shows that they will soon rebound. Climate crisis remains with us if we do not mobilize all possibilities for climate action - from global to local.
The positive experience and the progress of visionary communities and leaders is much needed to redesign our future and avoid bouncing back to business-as-usual.
Local communities are in the front line of the implementation of the Paris Agreement. They can not only accelerate the mitigation efforts and the reduction of greenhouse gases, but also prove that ambition can be easily raised if decisions are just and fair and supporting the shift of the fossil-based society into a renewable, healthy and resilient future.
Our May 28 Talking Climate event aimed to inspire stakeholders, communities and municipalities to start a similar journey like local authorities in Zlaté Moravce, Slovakia; Soto del Real, Spain; Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, UK.
Announcing Climate Emergency
Zlate Moravce Council declared climate emergency after recognizing the serious challenges coming from the extreme weather events with consequences on agriculture. "The community first hesitated how to accept this decision, but mainly young people supported it," said Dr. Dušan Husár, Mayor of Zlate Moravce. The municipality is now focusing on education of the young citizens and awareness raising in the community. The city council is determined to continue all these efforts after the pandemic and organizing events for the local community thus reaching and supporting the 2030 targets of the European Union.
Several programs anticipated the announcement of climate emergency in Soto del Real. “We need to show and explain our values as city council to the citizen to get people knowing why climate emergency was declared,” said Mr Luan Lobato, Mayor of the municipality. The community resonated very well with the programs announced by the city council, like using renewable energy, education efforts, or saving garbage. The organic garbage program, the composting resulted energy savings and tax savings – a win-win solution for the families and the community. Money was the trigger, but later it went the round among citizens as a good initiative.
Climate movements – especially youth strikes – played a vital role to convince both the council and the citizens about announcing the declaration in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. Many citizens are absolutely thrilled about climate emergency – generating dozens of ideas and recommendations trough a dedicated website. Now a working group is analyzing the proposals. The website also helps citizens to speak up for the Paris Agreement and to comment the progress of the city council decisions. “Climate emergency means different things to different people – thus education on climate facts is a vital area,” concluded Ms. Felicity Rice, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Climate Change of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council.
Dialogue with the community
The benefits of the projects are well accepted in Zlate Moravce, but education is a key to engage citizens. Central heating is among the difficult issues. It seems more expensive than individual heating but the community wins with clean air, lower carbon emissions and biomass generated energy.
In Soto del Real citizens are requested to develop ideas for practical projects, which are later discussed and decided by the wider community. This means that participation is very high in the decision. City council also has the responsibility to explain the details and to push values, too.
The participation in the local election is low in the UK – this creates a necessity to have a dialogue with the wider community. Honest discussion, citizens' assembly, youth parliament, on-line consultation solutions are all used to engage citizens. As awareness rises, public pressure grows – more ambitious decisions will be taken. Some council members have decided to go for one term only thus being able to make and support decisions that could be critical for reelection but progressive for climate solutions.
While solutions and possibilities are different in the 3 municipalities it is clearly demonstrated that an open dialogue, community nudging and demand is needed for turning climate emergency into actions.