Our environment is changing, both due to human development as well as because of climate change

Awareness that- this cannot go on endlessly is growing. Climate change awareness is increasing. A large number of people know what climate change means, and they also know about international agreements such as the Paris Agreement. High-level meetings enable global leaders to take action. But that alone is not enough to make it work. The climate will not change because there is an agreement. The climate will change if people are changing their behaviour. This cannot only be done by making rules by a government. Action by private sector companies is needed; action by non-governmental organizations is needed; and action by universities and schools. And all this action is the action of individuals. Of course, a drop of water is nothing as compared to the ocean, but a lot of drops together, make a significant amount of water. The result of all the action is a further growing awareness, and the effect of the taken measures. And that what is important to achieve. Now how to engage citizens in action towards sustainability and adaptation to climate change?

An example about engaging citizens from the Netherlands. The Government of the Netherlands took the initiative to engage citizens widely to enhance action towards sustainability and it is called ‘the national climate weeks’. From 12 October till 6 November 2020, a campaign was planned to get all into action. With a focus on reducing CO2 emissions and on adaptation to climate change. The slogan is ‘all act’ (iedereen doet wat, which, literally translated means everybody does something). At the last moment, the action weeks were postponed to 2021, due to the second wave of corona virus. However, the concept basically remains the same, and by sharing it, let me also contribute to ‘all act’. This can hopefully inspire you also to act in your neighbourhood and contribute in a way appropriate for you to sustainability. 

Now, how does the campaign work? Nationwide, a call is made in the media to participate. Examples are given: One person acts by switching off systematically every day all the electricity switches in the house at the end of the day. Another person installs solar panels on her roof, and a third person is sharing a car instead of having one for himself. Insolation of the wall, floor and/or roofs of houses saving energy; buying food which requires less energy to produce and prepare; choosing different ways of transport which uses less energy, a large number of examples is given. And there is a call for action ‘all can do something’. So when somebody sees this, and wants to take action, he or she can follow the ideas, as given in the examples. People can also have their own ideas and can organize actions with their neighbourhood, work colleagues, friends, etc. It’s all about inspiring each other to take action. It’s about working together, inspiring each other, and taking action jointly in order to save labor, time and money to invest in the measures. And to do it! And all are invited to share a message about their action. The government made an internet platform available, in which information about the campaign can be found. Individuals and groups can list their (planned) actions. The list translates into a map – and the map is visible to all. In this way, an overview of the initiatives in the whole country is shown. It is a direct way to bring all the drops together into an ocean!

A toolkit is available on the platform to get people started for action. The toolkit has the following parts:

1. Explanation of the national climate weeks in short

2. Flyer for organizations, to use when informing their customers

3. Presentation about the National Climate Weeks

4. 7 Tips to organize your own activities during the National Climate Weeks

5. Logos

6. Frequently asked questions and answers

7. Support for communication (a.o. ready to use social media posts, to promote your activities)

Besides individuals registering their individual actions, also companies and organizations can become ‘climate partner’ in the campaign. They can register what services they provide, to support the country’s move towards action. By registering, they show how they support individuals with their climate actions towards a better and more sustainable world.

Just to mention some examples: there are partners that focus on sustainable energy, sustainable living, sustainable financing, climate awareness related to food, different ways of travelling, and making sustainable choices.

Partners for sustainable energy: offer energy generated in a sustainable way, thus enabling individuals to make a choice for less emissions

Partners for sustainable living: offer products to limit energy losses at the household level. Isolation of houses for instance, or double glass windows, limit the need for energy to keep the house warm. Alternative energy sources can be used for heating. Or using more sustainable construction materials.

Partners for sustainable financing: can help households to finance of measures that require substantial investment with a positive impact on the climate (less emissions).

Partners to help households creating awareness about food and nutrition: food that is imported, has a high energy footprint because of the transport, as compared to nearby produced food. Animal proteins (meat, eggs) require a lot of emissions to be produced, as compared to plant protein (dahl).

Partners to help changing travel into travel with less emissions. Using train rather than airplanes for instance, for trips.

Partners that provide advisory services, to help individuals to make sustainable choices that reduce emissions and help to adapt.

Companies can be registered as a partner on the platform of the government.

The overall campaign ‘All act’ is an initiative of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. The goal of the campaign is to help citizens to act and contribute towards a sustainable living environment. We’ll now wait to next year, to report back to you how citizens, organizations and companies took action during the four weeks of the National Climate weeks, to limit CO2 emissions and get closer to the climate agreement. 

Finally, taking action is urgent, and everything we can already start doing, we should do. Let me share what is already happening, in the organization where I work, Wageningen University and Research in the  Netherlands. Our organization also participates in this action week. For instance, we contributed to the new guidelines on Nature-Based Solutions. Technology-based solutions alone will not help us enough. If we want to be climate-proof in future, we need to draw on the power of nature (https://www.wur.nl/en/show-longread/Nature-as-the-inspiration-for-climate-solutions.htm). 

Every one of us needs to take action – we all can do something to contribute. Let’s not wait. Everything we can do already now will be in the benefit of the planet. We owe this to our children.

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