Associate Director Moritz Schaefer discusses how the BEACON project facilitates exchange on ambitious climate action between national governments, municipalities, and schools in Europe.
Q: Since the Paris Climate Agreement, climate action at the local level has become an increasingly hot topic. How is the Bridging European and Local Climate Action (BEACON) project involved in local climate action?
Schaefer: Indeed, the Paris Agreement and various city-focused initiatives have shown that non-state and local actors have a key role in limiting global warming. While the ambition and sectoral scope of national climate action differs across EU countries, much of the mitigation action takes place on the ground at the local level, often driven by cities, entrepreneurs, and scientific or educational organizations. Still, the link to national and international efforts is critical. Fostering exchange and collaboration to strengthen common ambition to realize the Paris Agreement is therefore the focus of the BEACON project, which connects the different governance levels in the spirit of enhancing European collaboration and exchange.
Q: What is Guidehouse’s role in the BEACON project?
Schaefer: BEACON is currently the largest project of the European Climate Initiative (EUKI), which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment. With our extensive experience in program management, Guidehouse was selected to lead this large-scale multinational project. Our team of dedicated energy and climate experts manages a consortium of eleven organizations in seven countries to deliver impact and align the project’s multiple work streams.
Together with our partners we support the implementation of climate action by exchanging experience in climate policies, by connecting local climate initiatives, and by raising awareness for climate protection among the youth. For example, we have provided decision-makers with studies on 22 emission reduction instruments and climate change laws in 11 EU countries and across the transport, buildings, industry, and agricultural sectors. You can download these studies from the EUKI website.
Q: The project’s goal is enhancing cross-border collaboration to boost multilevel climate action. What does the work look like on the ground?
Schaefer: Municipalities all over Europe are experiencing the effects of climate change. “Heißzeit” – hot time – was the German word of the year in 2018 and again this summer many regions suffered from droughts, fires, or heavy rainfall. Cities will need to adapt to these changing climatic conditions. At the same time, cities emit 60% of greenhouse gas emissions. Both factors make them a key stakeholder in the fight against climate change.
BEACON directly supports 34 municipalities and 57 schools, but also reaches out to policymakers and other stakeholders. Through joint learning, networking, and tailored advisory services, policymakers, municipal actors, and educators gain technical and process-related skills that help them develop, refine, and implement measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By highlighting successful climate action measures and the associated benefits, we create understanding, acceptance, and support for climate protection.
Q: How are the different governance levels connected to one another?
Schaefer: There are numerous promising approaches and ideas available to mitigate climate change, what we call “beacons." The networking and learning approach of BEACON disseminates these concepts amongst countries and municipalities and from the local to the national and the EU levels and vice versa. For instance, municipal representatives and national decision-makers convened at a conference in Heidelberg this May to learn about their respective approaches to challenges such as energy poverty, climate financing, local energy generation, sustainable mobility, or cross-border climate policies. To address the European level, BEACON is bringing municipal representatives to Brussels to share their good practices at the EU Week of Regions and Cities this October.
Q: Much work remains to be done but have you noticed any change on the ground?
Schaefer: It is true that much work remains to be done and we still have a long way to go to reach a climate neutral society. For this reason, we designed BEACON in a way that not only our participating countries, municipalities, and schools benefit, but that outcomes are replicable, scalable, and have a lasting impact. For example, we are developing new incentive models for energy savings in schools or accessing new financing sources to sustain and expand climate action projects. In a similar vein, BEACON has supported the inclusion of climate action in national curricula in Romania.
From participating local representatives, we hear that BEACON helps break silos in their administrations and strengthens capacities and ambition for climate action. They are further encouraged and inspired by peer municipalities in the framework of cross-border climate partnerships established with the project. We also see schools reducing energy consumption through behavioral change and pupils absorbing lessons on climate change or participating in the Fridays for Future youth movement for climate action with great enthusiasm.
When talking about climate action, however, we have to start with ourselves. That’s why we choose train travel or video conference over flying and offset unavoidable emissions. We also ensure that our events have a low-carbon footprint by, for example, providing only local, sustainable, and vegetarian food options.
The project runs until March 2021 and by then we aim to realize energy savings, initiate and implement numerous climate change mitigation-related activities, and build capacity for climate action amongst a wide range of stakeholders at the national level, as well as in schools and municipalities.