"Just get to do it" says Rob Hopkins, the co-founder of the Transition network while showing impressive examples of peoples' initiatives which are making their environment greener and their societies more resilient. The transition movement already exists in over 50 countries and people are getting active by investing their time and efforts in local energy, transport or food-related projects. Much more could be done by civil society, provided the legal and regulatory framework would allow for it.
EESC as precursor for the bottom-up movement
On 5 October the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) organised a conference on the topic "Designing a framework for bottom-up climate action" with the goal to exchange best practices and to pinpoint where hurdles and obstacles give a halt to people's commitment in their fight against climate change. The conference is also related to the current work of the EESC, the CoR, the OECD and the Comite 21 who are the four co-pilots of the international Coalition on Multi-level and multi-stakeholder partnership as means of accelerated, more efficient and inclusive implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Tapping the potential of civil society and creating jobs and growth
Lutz Ribbe, rapporteur of an EESC opinion on Coalition to deliver commitments of the Paris Agreement emphasized the crucial role of the EESC to approximate the needs of civil society and the hurdles they are facing and to facilitate local initiatives, by delivering recommendations and advise to the European institutions. "Policy makers are often not aware of the huge potential of citizens and civil society. The change mostly starts on the local and regional level. In Germany, for instance, civil society has taken over ownership and responsibility of the so called "Energiewende" and now 95% of the installed capacities in the renewable energy sector (such as solar energy installations, wind mills or biogas facilities) do not belong to the big 4 utilities, but to private initiatives, farmers, cooperatives, SME`s, cities etc.. Therefore, it is my plea to the Commission to invest more in small energy projects and not only in large-scale energy projects". The fight against climate change has to be considered not only in environmental but also in social and economic terms. The EESC sees climate action not only as a challenge but in particular as a chance to create new businesses and jobs.
Sustainability – the continuous thread through all measures
"It is not enough to call on the people to change, it is more important to change the political and legal framework and thus give leeway for people's commitment and efforts", said Isabel Caño Aguilar, co-rapporteur of the above mentioned opinion. She emphasised the importance of increasing the dialogue between state- and non-state actors with the goal to make sustainability a red thread of all economic and political decisions. Ms Caño Aguilar also pointed to the transition that the world of work needs to make as well as to the need to take accompanying measures, develop new skills for new jobs and raise awareness of climate change. "We need to equip ourselves with the means for a successful transition and the social partners and social dialogue have an important role to play in this context."
This conference is "only the beginning of a dialogue" said Mr Ribbe. President Dassis, already in its statement on the Nantes Declaration of climate actors emphasised that the commitments of the Paris agreement can only be fulfilled with the involvement of civil society. The 5 October conference came exactly one month before the start of the COP22 in Marrakech and a day after the EU Parliament agreed on the ratification of the Paris agreement.