93% of Europeans consider climate change to be a serious problem and say they have already taken at least one measure to combat it. The Green deal is the European Union’s new growth strategy aimed at improving citizens’ well-being. For us, civil society structures and popular education actors, it is crucial to implement, at local level, concrete actions to ensure a fair and inclusive energy transition. It is not necessary to carry out large-scale actions, but to foster a dynamic leading to innovation and, above all, to give future generations both cognitive and practical tools.
The final objective is twofold: to unite the citizens in rural areas around this Green deal and to encourage them to stay in the countryside where they come from in order to be full-fledged actors of change.
We have identified already in all our six partner countries what is happening around climate change and a new green policy. We come from all the different parts of the European Union North (Sweden), West (Netherlands, France), Center (Germany), South (Greece) and East (Poland) representing member states that entered the EU in different times in the last 70 years of European integration.
We bring a very pluralistic picture and very different experiences about climate and environmental policy. That’s our connecting ankle. Moreover, we finished in 2019 a Strategic Partnership in adult education on the general development in rural areas which is defined by the German NA NABIBB for Erasmus+ to be a good-practice example for a SP. It is documented in the annual report. As our journey in rural development started with this European project, we got so motivated to continue as we were also surprised by the tremendous output and success of our two-year cooperation.
Climate policy was already identified in this SP and we got already experiences and identified different needs. After the announcement by the new European Commission to have a (New) Green Deal the different pieces came together. For us, it’s a way of sustainable project management as we can connect to a successful project that uncovered (new) needs and aims to work in rural areas in a European setting. It’s one of the hot topics for the coming decades and the rural areas are directly affected. So what to do, what do others do, what approaches do we have, what way can we get, what is possible even with a small budget, how can citizens be involved, what is specific for rural areas in comparison to urban places? Many questions that need answers. Climate change is one of the policy areas that needs international / European cooperation. Climate change does not stop at the borders. It is one of the best examples where European cooperation is necessary.
This is the way we would like to go. Learning about “Green Initiatives in Rural Areas” (GIRA), that’s the driving motor for our SP, we put it in our project title. Learning from others, exchanging good-practices and experiencing what other Europeans need and what solutions they have developed. This is the motivation we have for this specialized project, focused on rural development. Rural areas still need to get much more attention and climate change is a super actual topic that concerns everybody. Their needs are huge and European cooperation can bring a visible and applicable benefit to all our rural regions and to third parties who can also profit from the results we will produce. Getting local citizen motivated and engaged is another aim of our project. We learned this from the recent project. Citizens are thankful to get involved but they need motivation, someone to kick an idea off. We can reconnect to these resources and strengthen the freshly developed structures. That’s a real investment in sustainable European cooperation. It is very important for us by focusing on the green policy that we broaden the range of people involved. For sure that will be citizens, NGOs, local communities and associations that deal with climate change anyway, but it will be also crucial to get the attention and the involvement of those who are not active. We don’t want to stay on a theoretical basis. The SP shall end in practical output and concrete results even though we applied in exchange of good-practices. Surely, we are going to document the results and make it available, but we also want to apply things and change rural life for the better.