Filed under: Climate change Development Governance

>> Watch interview with Ginka Chavdarova, Executive Director of the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria

Ultimately, sustainable, green development will save our planet because it’s a local solution; but high-level climate change negotiations may carry on without results or with slow progress because it’s a global challenge. Why?

Perhaps it’s because people can feel the positive effects of concrete actions taken in their local communities in their everyday life, and that’s a strong incentive.

While climate change is about saving the planet, sustainable development is about saving our local forests and fisheries, using renewable resources to provide energy to remote communities or increase energy security by reducing imports of fossil fuels.

Sustainable development is about using resources to promote economic development for the current generation while leaving resources intact for future generations.

What we need to achieve sustainability is for local leaders (formal and informal) to be convinced that it’s the best way to improve the quality of life in their territories. Then they will take it upon themselves to convince members of their communities and local businesses to jump on board.

That’s why the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe (NALAS) organized a meeting of mayors to put sustainable development and climate change on the agenda of local governments.

NALAS is following in the footsteps of big-city mayors that met in Rio through C40 Cities. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that as innovators and practitioners, cities are at the forefront of sustainable development and climate change.

The mayors said that through improved waste management, efficient lighting, and green city transportation, cities are on track to reduce their combined greenhouse gas emissions by 248 million tonnes by 2020.

Back in South-East Europe…

The location of the NALAS meeting was quite appropriate: in Tulcea, Romania, home to the arid Măcin Mountains that are some of the oldest in Europe, and the Danube Delta which is the “newest” land in Europe, formed over the past 10,000 years from sandbars in the Black Sea and sediments from the Danube River.

“We are in Mother Nature’s home,” said Tulcea Mayor Constantin Hogea.

Climate change is an important and painful topic for Tulcea where the threat of floods, tornadoes and even desertification are all too real.

But somehow it’s still an uphill battle to talk about climate change with many mayors in South-East Europe.

“Ninety-five percent of mayors would laugh in your face if you talked about climate change in Albania because of the immediate needs they are addressing and above all the priority of economic development,” says Fatos Hadaj, Secretary General of the Association of Albanian Municipalities.

In Moldova, where 98 percent of final energy consumption is imported, energy efficiency and finding local energy sources is a matter of economic security as much as an approach to climate change mitigation.

Even in this context, most local authorities are not aware of what they can and should do to promote energy efficiency and biomass energy, says Mayor Tatiana Badan, President of the Congress of Local Authorities of Moldova.

Vice-President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Eur0pe, Ludmila Sfirloaga, believes that the only lasting response to climate change lies in building a sustainable environment at the grassroots level – changing consumption patterns and a new energy culture.

She said that although local governments are part of the problem, they are also part of the solution.

  • Reducing climate and sustainability to local grassroots action is the good work of the 80s and 90s. What we’ve hopefully learned since then is that reducing whole system complexity into either local or global domains doesn’t do the job. Today it’s systemic change or game over.

    • Clare Romanik

      It’s true that systemic change is needed: hats off to the
      campaign to end fossil fuel subsidies and mainstream the green economy. But necessary changes in lifestyles and
      consumption patterns are greatly influenced by the shape of our local
      development. The NALAS meeting of mayors
      who are Presidents of their country’s local government association was to find
      a political entry point for sustainable development and climate change in
      South-East Europe where it’s not on the radar screen yet.

      • Good examples. If green economy had been approached as systemic change (rather than woolly incremental green-sector change) then there would be no need to campaign on subsidies.

        Local decisions can of course align themselves to a new paradigm even before it exists. Would suggest small-scale biochar for a combined economic, climate, energy and food revival.

        • Clare Romanik

          Thanks for the info on small-scale biochar. Maybe we will organize a biochar work party to make more people familiar with this technology. I will also share it with our biomass projects.