SIC's Eamon O'Hara is running the Climate Innovation Network. He talks about the launch of the very first European Day of Sustainable Communities.
1. Can you tell us more about the event and your involvment, what was the purpose and what were the key discussion points?
The conference brought together policy makers and representatives of the thousands of community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability in Europe in order to launch the first ever European Day of Sustainable Communities (EDSC), which took place the following day. The conference and the European Day were initiated by ECOLISE and the Brussels event was co-hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
The aim of the conference was to engage European Union (EU) policy-makers and stakeholders in Brussels by demonstrating how community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability have a vital role to play in achieving climate targets. The event also contributed to the action week that celebrates the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.
To mark the European Day of Sustainable Communities on 23 September, communities in 15 countries across Europe organised events to showcase their pioneering efforts to create new models for sustainable living. Ecovillages, Transition initiatives, permaculture projects, the agroecology movement, and many others opened their doors and invited the public to observe, discuss and be inspired by a diverse range of projects, covering everything from community energy, to local food, sustainable mobility, resource management and much more.
During the conference at the EESC, there was a live video link-up with the organisers showcasing a selection of these Europe-wide events. The latest information from the ECOLISE network was also shared with conference participants, including research findings on the status, impacts and challenges of community-led initiatives in Europe in achieving climate targets, preserving natural resources and biodiversity, and creating a fairer and more equitable society.
The Brussels event attracted around 130 participants, including EU policy-makers from the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament, Members of the EESC, government representatives, and community leaders, including ECOLISE members, partner organisations, associations and NGOs.
2. How do you hope meetings such as this will increase community-led action on climate change and sustainability?
The event and the European Day contribute to the main pillars of our strategy, which focus on raising awareness about the potential of community-led action, among policy makers but also the general public; facilitating the sharing of knowledge and information; and also engaging in a dialogue with policy makers in order to find ways to remove policy barriers and create a more favourable environment for community-led initiatives.We will be using the event and the Day as a platform to advance our work in these areas.
3. What were your key take always, learnings and conclusions?
Well, firstly, there was a very positive response from the institutions and other stakeholders in Brussels to the launch of the European Day for Sustainable Communities. There was a strong consensus that community-led initiatives deserve more recognition and support and have a key role to play in addressing global challenges. Numerous obstacles were identified, however, both legislative and funding related, and to overcome these greater political support is needed. In this regard, it was encouraging to hear a clear endorsement for the activities of ECOLISE and we were strongly urged to continue the work we are doing to support community-led initiatives and advocate on their behalf. Of course it is difficult to do this with the limited funding and public support we have currently but this is changing, and I left the event in Brussels with the sense that we had taken another important step in the right direction.
We've also just released this publication (see: http://www.ecolise.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/ECOLISE-European-Day-of-Sustainable-Communities-booklet-Sept-2017.pdf) it includes some really interesting organisations. Enjoy!
For more information about our Climate Change Network, please see here.