Energy Allies: Transatlantic Multi-stakeholder Dialogues for the Local Energy Transition Learning Lab 2
We are witnessing how local governments in the United States and Europe are rallying to respond to the devastating effects of climate change and are driving the transition to a sustainable low carbon future. Many city governments are going as far as setting the target of reaching 100 percent renewable energy. The combination of vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change and a predominant role in energy consumption means that cities can and will be part of the climate solution. They cannot, however, act alone as they often control only a small portion of local greenhouse gas emissions, which rarely exceeds 10 percent. In addition, city governments are often not responsible for their territories’ energy supply. Further, today’s energy model is evolving from a centralized system based on fossil fuels whose control is retained by a few to a decentralized grid involving a whole new set of players as well as local and renewable resources. This energy transition is not only enabled by new technologies—in many ways, it is the result of new social practices and governance methods. It is fertile ground for the emergence of new solutions with an enormous potential to stimulate local economies, create social cohesion, and increase the overall resilience of cities and countries. Recognizing the key role relevant civil society actors plays in supporting cities’ climate action and becoming innovators in this transition through joint policymaking and implementation will be a critical success factor.
Against this background, GMF and Energy Cities propose “Energy Allies: Transatlantic Cities-Civil Society Dialogues on the Local Energy Transition,” funded by the European Union under the program “EU–U.S.: Transatlantic Civil Society Dialogues (TCSD)”. Energy Allies aims to understand, nurture, and lift collaboration between the local representatives and key stakeholders needed to drive the energy transition forward and to unleash their full potential for action. Here, civil society is understood as “nongovernmental organizations, grassroots organizations, cooperatives, trade unions, professional associations, universities, media, and independent foundations. Their common feature lies in their independence from the State and the voluntary basis upon which they have come together to act and promote common interests,” as defined by the European Union.
The specific objectives of Energy Allies are to:
- Connect and leverage the expertise of U.S. and EU civil society and local government leaders in driving democratic and inclusive processes to accelerate the energy transition;
- Outline and understand the best practices for successful partnership models in the energy transition, leading to the mutual empowerment of city government and civil society;
- Disseminate and encourage wide replication of participatory policymaking and implementation regarding climate and energy action in U.S. and EU cities.
To this end, GMF and Energy Cities have designed a customized and innovative format to stimulate a thoughtful peer-to-peer conversation through two three-day-long Learning Labs.
The first Learning Lab took place Cambridge (MA), from October 28-31, 2018, and brought together stakeholders from Charlotte, North Carolina; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Heidelberg, Germany; and Nantes, France that represent either the city, civil society, or utilities in the energy transition sector for the first time. This initial learning lab fostered a dialogue on cities’ strategies and instruments to engage civil society into their climate and energy plans, how civil society is transforming energy systems, and opportunities to engage more effectively in the energy transition process.
The second Learning Lab will take place in Nantes, France on March 31-April 3, 2019, and will further explore policy frameworks and initiatives on both sides of the Atlantic to further engage civil society in the cities’ climate and energy actions. More specifically, the Lab will discuss how to ensure that civil society groups can become prosumers and participate in the production of renewable energy; and what can be done to allow local stakeholders to flourish and multiply existing civil society groups’ innovations on a large scale.