Over 150 people from European Commissioners to MEPs, EU officials and local community organisers from across Europe attended the online launch of Communities for Future, the new action programme to inspire, empower and enable local community-led responses to the climate and ecological emergency.
Speaking at the launch Dubravka Šuica, Vice-president, Commissioner for Democracy, Demography & the Future of Europe said: “what you have is a vision . . . I am really amazed by it . . we must work at the local, regional, national & European level but always together“. She said that she shared the Communities for Future objective of “involving citizens and appealing to their potential to build and increase resilience and local cohesion“.
In a pre-recorded video address to the event, her colleague, Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said: “We want people to be inspired by the good solutions that are already out there and to find next steps. Initiatives like ECOLISE’s Communities for Future share this vision and build on existing programmes.”
Communities for Future aims to facilitate the widespread mainstreaming of regenerative and transformative community-led action on climate change and sustainability. It draws on the work, experience and knowledge of members and partners of ECOLISE, which is spearheading the programme.
MEP support from Ireland, Germany, France & Slovenia
A number of MEPs also zoomed into the event including Seán Kelly (Ireland, EPP), Salima Yenbou (France, Greens/European Free Alliance), Niklas Nienaß (Germany, Greens/European Free Alliance) and Irena Joveva (Slovenia, Renew Europe).
Niklas Nienaß urged participants to find out who in their region was responsible for shaping their national recovery plan and “to ensure that this money that will be spent will be going into the future. The real question is how can we use these funds to save us from the bigger debt we are facing – that of the climate emergency.”
Salima Yenbou MEP shared her insights of urban communities in France, stressing that: ‘Ecology must be a guarantor of social justice. Ecology needs to rhyme with social inclusion and must not be relegated to the privileged.’
Sean Kelly MEP said we do not need to reinvent the wheel and that information and the sharing of best practice creates innovation. “If we take good examples and let other communities know, they themselves will follow suit.” He said there were three basic principles required: fostering knowledge sharing by connecting people; making funding available and helping create legal frameworks to support projects.
European Commission official Sophie Dewispelaere of the Secretariat-General’s Recovery & Resilience Task Force said that in drawing up their post-COVID recovery plans Member States must ‘reach out to all stakeholders . . . the local dimension can only add to the value of such national plans’.
Peter Schmidt, Istvan Komoroczki and Baiba Miltoviča represented the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), joint hosts of the event with ECOLISE.
“We need transformational shifts in culture, infrastructure, behaviour, participation and livelihoods, but also empower citizens in multiple ways. We are proud to continue supporting local communities which are leading this transition on the ground,” said Peter Schmidt, President of the EESC’s Sustainable Development Observatory.
ECOLISE members and partners share their insights
Many ECOLISE members and partners also took part in the launch event, including those who had organised Communities for Future launch events and workshops at national level: Ana Armano Linta from the Croatian Permaculture Association; Thomas Meier for the Permakultur Institut in Germany; Floss Adams, of Transition Network Ireland; Mieke Elzenge for LiberTerra community in the Netherlands; Gil Penha-Lopes for FCUL and Habita Regen in Portugal; and Andy Goldring for the Permaculture Association Britain in the UK.
In reporting on the Portuguese launch of Communities for Future, which was attended by MEP José Gusmão, action researcher with DRIFT, Flor Avelino, and eco entrepreneur António Vasconcelos, Gil Penha-Lopes said that the key question emerging from the Portuguese discussion was: “How can we design policies to regenerate territories? We need to apply living systems and interdependency thinking to policy approaches and projects from EU to local level.”
Dr Rehama White shared insights from a Communities for Future event organised by Ecovillages in Transition. “We need to create a web of knowledge and to nurture our soil and maybe recognise that communities are like bees, flexible and nimble in how they respond,” she said.
Other partners who contributed to the launch included Celine Seince, European coordinator of RURENER, European network of rural communities engaged in the energy transition, and Jason Nardi, Delegate General of RIPESS Europe, the European network of the Social Solidarity Economy organisations.
The launch also included Meet & Greet breakout rooms where stakeholders such as European Youth Forum and Transition Network to informally and directly share their actions and solutions regarding climate action, sustainability and social inclusion with participants.
Communities for Future supports the mainstreaming of transformative community-led action by providing: stories of inspirational communities; access to training and resources such as guides, manuals and podcasts to help citizens organise and work with their communities; events where people can meet and learn from others; an online space where people can collaborate; and contacts of people and organisations who can support community-led action.
Get involved! See https://www.communitiesforfuture.org