European RCEs Share Local Collaborative Approaches to Climate Action

The Europe Regional Meeting 2020 was held online from 24-25 November, 2020, hosted by RCE East Midlands under the theme 'Climate Emergency: Joined-up Action'. 

The event provided a platform for RCEs and other participants to share experiences of local collaborative approaches to sustainability across the European region to address the climate emergency and looked at the contributions that RCEs can make in enabling action through learning. 

Dr. Andrew Reeves, RCE East Midlands provided opening remarks, welcoming the attendees which saw over 400 registrations from across 36 countries and four continents, across 37 universities/colleges/schools. Day One was open to all, and included sessions focused on the theme of the conference, beginning with a panel discussion in which panellists involved in local collaborative climate action discussed what this entails within their local settings. The importance of understanding community needs and building of trust was highlighted, as was the need to involve all in the transformation process, co-creating a sense of ownership.  

Parallel workshop sessions covered areas such as: working with diverse partners, in particular between academia and business; a Carbon Literacy Training model designed to motivate and empower climate action in communities; place-based climate change issues drawing upon approaches from Wales, France, Germany, and Belarus; and how arts-based engagement can mobilise climate action. 

The second day provided an opportunity for collaboration and discussion amongst RCEs across Europe. Discussions were a chance to share practices, as well as the challenges which the pandemic has brought about, such as remote learning, lack of resources or funding, and access inequalities, however it also provided a chance to reflect on opportunities such as new ways to connect, how to live more sustainably, and to rethink our approaches. Ways to collaborate were also discussed, such as the virtual hosting of students and service learning opportunities.  

Dr. Philip Vaughter, Research Fellow, UNU-IAS presented on recent research and analysis conducted across RCE projects conducted under the GAP (Global Action Programme on ESD), assessing the trends and gaps, and highlighting key results from the European region, such as the fact the majority of projects were conducted by higher education institutions (by educational setting), as well as a strong focus on GAP Priority Action Area 5 – Accelerating sustainable solutions at the local level. Dr. Vaughter noted moving forward under the ‘ESD for 2030’ framework, it is imperative that RCEs continue to make their voices heard from the local level. 

A range of parallel workshop sessions considered how to build back better post-COVID-19 in the context of school and university settings, as well as a focus on the climate emergency, where discussions centred around good practices to engage young people, student activism, and climate justice education. These sessions highlighted the importance of different perspectives and experiences related to the impact of COVID-19 in different contexts, the issues youth are most concerned about, and principles for teaching climate change and how to include it in policy practice and curriculum. 

Participants also heard from a number of RCEs who presented on activities taking place in schools such as experiential and outdoor activities, global learning initiatives which foster collaboration and professional learning, a project focusing on the implementation of ESD into school curricula, toolkits for community groups focused on the wellbeing of migrants and displaced persons, and systems thinking and the SDGs in the context of sustainability in higher education. These presentations looked at how to support youth to reconnect with nature, future directions to ensure ESD is at the heart of schools, and the importance of community empowerment and developing engagement.  

The unique circumstances this year as a result of the pandemic was one factor in this innovative format, which consisted of pre-recorded sessions, interactive webinars, and tools for online discussions. These all demonstrate the creative ways there are to make connections and share with each other despite physical distances, and as conference organiser, Dr. Andrew Reeves stated, is a model which will be very important in the future, even after the pandemic. 

The Global RCE Service Centre wishes to thank the team at RCE East Midlands for their outstanding efforts and coordination in making the 2020 Europe Regional Meeting a success, and to all participants for their active participation and contributions. 

Presentations from the meeting can be found on the event page here. Full recordings of each session will be available soon.