The MiT at the International Conference on Climate Action (Heidelberg)

It’s the collaboration (and we are not stupid)

In 2015, when the first International Conference on Climate Action (ICCA) took place in Hannover, the motto was “Local Governments Driving Transformation”. In the ICCA2019 held in Heidelberg between 22 and 23 May, the call became “Collaboration for Climate Action”.

Surely, we did not discover the power of collaboration just now. In fact, extensive research showed that it is an intrinsic and determinant value in every human culture around the world. But maybe the challenges that we currently face, force us to focus again in the greatest of our superpowers: collaboration. We (local governments, businesses, civil society…) just cannot do it alone.

Since 2005, the Transition Movement is promoting the idea of “communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world”. When Rob Hopkins came to the ICCA in 2015, he met the German Environmental Minister that felt inspired by the idea of local collaborative transformation and launched a national program to support these initiatives (“Short Paths for Climate Protection”). As a consequence, the ICCA in 2019 include a field trip to the initiatives funded in the region and promoted by the Transition group: the “transition house” (where you can share anything, from ideas to used clothes or cooking skills) and the “garden of change” (public green space managed collectively). A workshop on scaling up Transition was also included.

The “Municipalities in Transition” project, launched in 2017, is also a result of this new care for collaboration: local governments and community-led initiatives come together to foster transformation in a joint effort. That is why it was included in a short list of “Initiatives for Collaborative Climate Action”, meant to inspire the participants in the ICCA2019. Tom Henfrey, from Ecolise, had the opportunity to share this and other initiatives from civil society.

We should note, however, that probably the most inspiring contribution came from the young people that participated in the Youth Climate Summit and Fridays for Future. When they came to the ICCA stage, facing the 900 representatives of governments and organizations from all over the world, they made quite an impression with their clear demands and emotional discourse. It was no surprise that after that the Turkish representative for Climate Action, Mehmet Emin Birpınar, apologized for all the damage already done that will affect the future generations and confessed that, after 5 years of international climate negotiations, he now feels some hope and excitement.

If any doubt still existed that change is happening, the European Elections that took place just after ICCA showed that the same youth that packed the Market Square in Heidelberg for the climate strike, also voted massively for climate (around one third of the under-30s in Germany voted in the Green Party), changing the political landscape.

The new generation is not stupid. They know how to use the powerful collaborative tools available in the virtual world (just look at the viral Rezo’s 55 minutes climate manifesto in Youtube – German). But they also know that transformation happens on the streets. Raising their voices together or collaborating with neighbors.

Pedro Macedo

Disclaimer: the author participated in the Climate Neighbourhoods as part of the ICCA2019, with support from the ifeu – Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Heidelberg and Municipalities in Transition project. ICCA was hosted by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, the State of Baden-Württemberg and the City of Heidelberg, in a roadmap to the United Nations Climate Action Summit to be held on 23 September.

Picture copyright © Christian Buck