Engaging communities in the dialogue on the new climate change regime remains still a challenge. So does fostering citizens to adopt sustainable energy patterns through lifelong learning (LLL). 9 European partners are trying to meet this challenge through the programme "Sustainable Mountain Communities", by using the concept of Sustainable Learning Communities.
Following more than 15 years of international negotiations, climate change is currently considered as an issue of universal concern for most politicians and decision makers. Tackling climate change at a local level goes together with the creation of local jobs and increased quality of life for citizens.
However, climate change policies and programmes at a local level are still in their infancy, in terms of putting real changes on the ground. The lack of the required background and behavioural thinking of local decision makers and stakeholders for incorporating environmental friendly strategies, poses a significant barrier.
In this respect, the insights from an on-going related European programme are presented and discussed, based on the concept of the Sustainable Learning Communities.
Sustainable Mountain Communities Programme
Ambitious initiatives have been initiated recently for engaging communities in the dialogue on the new climate change regime and fostering citizens to adopt sustainable energy patterns at a European level. Such an initiative is the "Sustainable Mountain Communities" Intelligent Energy for Europe programme, where 9 European partners are trying to meet this goal by using the concept of Sustainable Learning Communities. The participating mountainous communities of Europe come from Greece, France, Austria and Estonia.
The scope of the programme is the utilization of Renewable Energy Sources and Rationale Use of Energy in these communities to reallocate energy production, valorise the territory, decrease its vulnerability in terms of fossil fuel and create wealth and employment. Towards this direction, particular emphasis is laid on the efficient exploitation of the already existing capacities and groups of citizens activated in these isolated and non-grid connected communities, such as Local Authorities, schools (students and teachers) and associations.
The tools and methods used for activating local citizens of mountainous communities in the fight against global warming include:
- The establishment of communities planning partnerships
- The development of personal learning plans for the promotion of sustainable energy and environmental awareness
- The establishment of working groups on climate change in a local basis,
- The implementation of high feasibility events, such as festivals, awards and workshops
- The combination of information, communication and broadcasting technologies (project site, blogs, forums, newsletters, audiovisual material, local press) to improve knowledge of, and active participation in, related activities.
Sustainable Learning Communities
In general, a Sustainable Learning Community can be defined as the Community that goes beyond its statutory duty to provide the related sustainable energy education and training for those who require it. Such a Community can create a vibrant, participative, culturally aware human environment regarding climate change, through the provision, justification and active promotion of learning opportunities for sustainable patterns of living and acting.
Transforming a Community to a Sustainable (Climate) Learning Community is a challenging issue. The key words in such communities are "active citizenship", partnership and cooperation - sectors and stakeholders work together for the common good, the sustainable development.
This dynamic evolvement necessitates the usage of LLL processes. Even though for many years environmental protection and sustainable economic and social development were a neglected part of LLL actions, currently their interaction is viewed as a priority in LLL.
Allowing Sustainable Energy Choices
Indeed, and based on the programme´s insights, the most important is not only the personal adoption of a sustainable pattern but a commitment in a broader level, in the places people live and work, in their neighbourhood, in their communities. This is also the original concept of a city/ community as noted by A. Piebalgs (European Commissioner for Energy): «the raison d´ętre of policy and the natural space for debate and joint action».
Joint LLL processes in the local communities can enable energy consumers grasp the consequences of their activities and foster sustainable energy choices in a broader scale. However, LLL techniques are never «neutral». They must be analysed/ customized based on the local groups of citizens´ needs and priorities. The efficient exploitation of the existing human resource is the key towards Sustainable Learning Communities.
(InfoNet - Doukas Haris, Karakosta Charikleia)