• Thursday, Aug 05, 2021
  • Last Update : 02:05 pm

How to engage everyone in climate action

  • Published at 11:28 am December 6th, 2020
climate change
Photo: Pixabay

The National Climate Weeks program in the Netherlands offers some ideas

Our environment is changing, both due to human development and because of climate change. Awareness that this cannot go on endlessly is growing. 

A large number of people now 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 change their behaviour. This cannot be achieved only through the government making rules. 

Action by private sector companies is needed; action by non-governmental organizations is needed, and action by universities and schools is also needed. And all of these actions are by individuals. 

Of course, a drop of water is nothing 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’s what is important to achieve. But how to engage citizens in action towards sustainability and adaptation to climate change?

Let’s take an example of 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 October 12 to November 6, 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 ‘iedereen doet wat’, which, literally translated, means ‘everybody does something’ or ‘everyone acts.’ 

At the last moment, however, the action weeks were postponed to 2021, due to the second wave of Covid-19. However, the concept basically remains the same, and by sharing it, let me also contribute to ‘everyone acts.’ 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 electrical 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. The 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, among a large number of other examples. 

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 neighbours, 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 labour, 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:

Explanation of the National Climate Weeks in short

  • Flyer for organizations, to use when informing their customers
  • A presentation about the National Climate Weeks
  • 7 Tips to organize your own activities during the National Climate Weeks
  • Logos
  • Frequently asked questions and answers
  • Support for communication (eg, ready to use social media posts, to promote your activities)

Besides individuals registering their individual actions, also companies and organizations can become ‘climate partners’ 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 measures that require substantial investment with a positive impact on the climate (less emissions).
  • Partners to help households create 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 change travel into travel with less emissions. Using trains rather than aeroplanes 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 partners on the platform of the government.

The overall campaign ‘everyone acts’ 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 until 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 program. 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. Our work is documented at our website wur.nl.  

Everyone 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.

Catharien Terwisscha van Scheltinga is a senior researcher at Wageningen University and Research(WUR) in the Netherlands, in the team Water and Food of Wageningen Environmental Research. She has extensive experience working on water management, climate change adaptation, and food security in Bangladesh and is leading WUR Project Office Dhaka. [email protected]


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