This November, when governments, NGOs, and activists from around the world came together in the city of Bonn for the UN’s annual climate conference, representatives from all GEN’s regions and GEN International were once again present to advocate for sustainable solutions and showcase ecovillages as part of a transition to a more just and sustainable world.
Amongst a busy schedule of networking, interviews, press conferences and meetings, our delegates were able to present in two events that highlighted the work of ecovillages: Developing Ecovillages for Regeneration and Climate Action - Opportunities for Europe Inspired by Asia, Africa and Latin America; and a Symposium on the Power of Community-led Action for Carbon Drawdown.
We asked our delegates about what they experienced in Bonn over the two intense weeks. Here we hear from Robert Hall, GEN-Europe representative, member of Suderbyn Ecovillage, and former President of GEN-Europe.
What was the most inspiring aspect of COP23 for you this year?
I experienced that the governments of the world were really making an effort to work for positive change and the Paris Agreement is really evolving into a strong mechanism to continuously raise ambitions. There are a few notable exceptions like the Trump government which is compensated by a broad coalition of US state and local governments, businesses and civil society that will transition towards zero-emissions anyway. At the same time the pace of the Paris agreement's implementation is way too slow. I was therefore personally very inspired by the work of communities, civil society and citizens everywhere that lead by example and do not need to wait for government incentives to do what in our common ethical imperative.
What contribution do you feel ecovillages can bring to climate action in Europe?
Europe is burdened by affluence and an addiction to cheap dirty energy and a destructive chemical agriculture. So in many ways Europeans have the greatest challenge to transition. Ecovillages are however dispersed all across Europe as beacons of good quality living with wholesome lifestyle and good quality, healthy food from regenerative community gardens. Yes I think ecovillages are very much a support for climate action in Europe. They can be visited, they can give courses in the local language, and they can inspire nearby urban transition groups. Therefore we urgently need vibrant ecovillages and ecovillage networks in all 45 countries of Europe.
What hopes do you have for Europe, coming home from COP23?
We have a strong community-led civic engagement in Europe that seems to be the key to rapid transition. I personally want to identify the best ways for governments to encourage citizens to take action creating a supportive environment for community-led change. In general I think national and local governments want this too but there is a need to build capacity of and trust in community-led actions. There is a growing realisation that increasing our involvement in the surrounding community and sharing with neighbours brings social connection, personal well-being and happiness that almost all of us are longing for. We need to highlight the strong incentives that exist for taking local climate action.