A PERSONAL HUMAN BASED APPROACH TOWARDS THE ENERGY TRANSITION
As a millennial living in the Netherlands, it seems the geopolitical event series are not going to stop. From the migration crisis, Trump, Brexit, the massive climate change and institutional racism protests, and the corona pandemic. And recently, a new chapter has started with the Russian war on the sovereign state of Ukraine.
These developments challenge our mental and physical health and one must not forget to care for oneself and for one’s community. Namely, an unhealthy population would give us less capacity to tackle our common energy challenges. On a positive note, these pressing issues result in fewer people staying indifferent. In my rural community for instance, farmers and other citizens have recently started a cooperative to develop large scale solar electricity and hydrogen production.
For four years I have been engaged in energy affairs. Via my studies in biotechnology I participated in the Dutch Climate Agreement and the Dutch Regional Energy Strategies. Currently, I work for the European Climate Pact as Dutch country coordinator. This job grants me the position to perceive multi-level governance and to let my ambassadors induce positive impact in their communities of work, society, neighbourhood, family or friends.
WHY SOCIAL INNOVATION IS CRUCIAL FOR ACHIEVING OUR GOALS
The previous EUSEW blogs already show that various political ambitions are translated into targets. Besides, we have an overview of (new) implementable technologies and financial arrangements to set scalable value models. Moreover, digital models make us aware about the current limits of time, scarce materials and human resources, to transform our energy system. Whether we will achieve our European goals will depend a lot on execution and the social architecture of our society.
This year EUSEW is hosted in hybrid mode with pre-events and digital ambassadors across Europe. This form is also a form of social innovation. Social innovation can entail social objectives, new types of interactions among actors and actor diversity. My work for the European Climate Pact can also be regarded as social innovation. It provides a new informal multi-stakeholder space on sustainability. The Pact contains over 800 ambassadors and aims to increase awareness and public actions on sustainability.
The advantages of this social innovation approach are numerous, but I want to highlight three:
- It brings individuals closer to institutions.
Many of the readers here probably have a strong national or even European network. We need to realise we are a minority in Europe, as most people stay in their local social and (sub)sectoral ecosystem. Moreover, digitalisation and individualism have caused more young Europeans to behave in flexible collectives. Few people join the classic democratic and civil society organisations, but they know how to organise themselves quickly when needed. This leads to many not knowing how to reach institutions in our democracy or civil society.
As an example of how the pact brings individual closer to institutions, my ambassador Wietse Slob wanted to visit the European Commission visitor centre with his study association on international climate diplomacy and could easily send the request via the Pact.
- It lowers the friction to turn into action modus.
Many people do have ideas to improve their local society, but often lack the skills, resources or network that can support them. In small communities you know how to help each other, but often you don’t know how the government could support your idea that helps the public good. In times of crisis, small teams behave faster than institutions.
For instance, the collective “Dag Tegen Gas” managed to host an effective awareness raising campaign. This mobilisation of civils society stimulated the formation of governmental programmes as “Ze took de knop om” and “Verbeter je huis” to support citizens and organizations to isolate and renovate houses.
- It makes new cross-connections for inclusion and learning curves.
Before the era of the internet, one had to be connected to the offices of your national political capital or representation office to give your feedback on policy proposals. Although we have online public consultations for EU policy and new online platforms, many power structures are still organised with a pyramid shape hierarchy. Hierarchy of power is not bad per se, but quick feedback among groups helps to speed up the learning curve and increase the spill over effect of our actions.
My Pact ambassador Fokke de Jong is experienced on EU level regarding climate adaptation and my ambassador Tjebbe Boersma is benefitting from his network to his first local regreening actions in The Hague.
MY PERSPECTIVE ON THE DUTCH-EUROPEAN SITUATION AND MULTIPLE-LEVEL STAKEHOLDER INTERACTION
So far a Dutch citizen can contribute to climate and energy policy and action programmes for each geographical level: the UNFCC Paris Agreement, The European Green Deal including FitFor55 and REPowerEU, The Dutch Climate Agreement and the Dutch Regional Energy Strategies. For sake of the European Year of Youth, I focus in this blog on the participation of youth. The inclusion of youth in the Dutch policy processes stimulated the professionalisation of the youth organisations. There are now a wealth of organisations that Dutch young citizens can join from Student Energy to the European Young Energy Network (see the list below).
Due to new professionalised youth organisations in civil society, new synergies between various geographical levels are being formed. Here I mention a few:
- National - UN: The Netherlands has youth representatives for the Sustainable Development Goals. These independent representatives are facilitated by the National Youth Council and are in close contact with organised youth and host many actions to get the opinion of unorganised youth. Furthermore, former youth representative Aiofe Fleming is leading World’sYouthForClimateJustice campaign to obtain an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice to clarify the obligations of states to protect the rights of current and future generations from the adverse effects of climate change.
- National - EU: The Netherlands has youth representatives on European Affairs. Recently, Leverne Nijman and Leah Corsmit cycled from Groningen to Brussels to give workshops for youth and forwarded the input to EU politicians and policy makers. Besides, various national climate and energy organisations are reviewing the option to become a member or partner of Generation Climate Europe and the European Youth Energy Network.
- National - Regional: The Jonge Klimaat Beweging and Klimaat Energie Koepel cooperated in order to facilitate regional youth participation for all Regional Energy Strategies in all Dutch regions. Now Jong RES Nederland has become an independent foundation and recently received national funding to strengthen youth participation and form programmes with education, local governments and local businesses on the energy transition.
- EU - National: EYEN and the European Climate Pact supported a transnational Dutch-German lecture series on the energy transition. Moreover, EYEN can make European financial programmes and consultation processes more accessible for local and national youth energy organisations. For instance, it can empower youth organisations to analyse the National Energy and Climate Plans and encourage transnational cooperation
- EU - Regional: Young Environment Europe is the lead organisation for EUTeens4Green programme. This programme empowers local youth organisations in the Just Transition Regions of Europe.
- EU - Global: Generation Climate Europe is campaigning on the removal of the Energy Charter Treaty, as companies are able to demand remuneration from states, when fossil energy plants are shut down earlier due to climate or environmental legislation. Besides, EYEN delivers one of the two European contact points towards the SDG7 Youth Constituency.
Overall, I experience that inclusive climate policy and the European Year of Youth do strengthen youth participation and formal youth civil society. Comparing the various governmental layers, Dutch youth organisations are so far best represented towards the Dutch national government and the European Commission. I think in the coming years the new European youth organisations can become strong linking pins towards the UN youth constituency and help facilitate the national and local level.
Nevertheless, much potential still lies in engaging youth energy organisations in public-private projects and the energy transition. For instance, professional energy organisations can benefit a lot by utilising ERASMUS+, LIFE+, the European Solidarity Corps or Interreg funds to engage youth for innovative projects or pro bono projects for society. Notably, as the energy policy is transformed into larger and more concrete action programmes, I foresee ICLEI, the Covenant of Mayors and NetZeroCities (part of Horizon Europe’s: EU Missions) to structurally work with youth partners. With our current geopolitical situation, social innovation can provide more strategic and practical support to restore peace and prosperity on this continent.
Overview of youth organisations relevant for Dutch young citizens:
- Global: Student Energy (local chapters of energy students)
- Global: YOUNGO (youth constituency towards UNFCC)
- Global: SDG7 Youth Constituency (youth constituency towards UN Energy and High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development
- EU: Generation Climate Europe (GCE) (federation of the major European civil society youth umbrella organisations for sustainability, including Young Environment Europe)
- EU: European Youth Energy Network (EYEN) (Association of youth energy organisations in Europe)
- EU: Young Energy Specialists Europe (YES-Europe) (Association of energy students and young professionals in Europe)
- NL national: Jonge Klimaatbeweging (JKB) (foundation with all NL youth organisations for sustainability)
- NL national: Klimaat Energie Koepel (KEK) (foundation with young professional ambassadors for sustainability)
- NL regional: Jong RES Nederland (foundation with regional youth networks for energy)
About the author:
Fons Janssen, holding a Master’s degree in Biotechnology, works for the European Climate Pact, is the Netherlands liaison for the European Youth Energy Network, Ambassador of the Netherlands young professional sustainability foundation KEK, member of a local energy cooperative Beepower and supports youth participation via Jong RES Nederland.
Disclaimer: This article is a contribution from a partner. All rights reserved.
Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on behalf of the Commission is responsible for the use that might be made of the information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and should not be considered as representative of the European Commission’s official position.
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