The rapid reduction of Arctic sea ice and rising average world temperatures tell us clearly that action is needed. But in order to combat climate change we cannot only focus on regional and national efforts, we need cooperation beyond national borders.
Last week the Latvian Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development organized the Closing Event for the EEA and Norway Grants programme in Latvia called National Climate Policy. EEA and Norway Grants provide funding to EU countries in Central and Southern Europe and the Baltics. The 32 programme areas were created to fit different countries’ needs and priorities. The National Climate Policy programme aimed at improving environmental legislation and increasing the country’s share of renewable energy. Another large part of the programme was focussed on preventing climate change from creating natural disasters in Latvia.
How can organisations and governments learn from international cooperation? What can we share in terms of experiences, science and knowledge? At the National Climate Policy Conference experiences and result were exchanged that showed how working within and beyond national borders creates the inspiration to take more climate action.
GRID-Arendal took part in the conference and made a presentation on the benefits of international cooperation. Since its start, the core activity at GRID-Arendal has been just that: international cooperation for global action. Even internally, it is not an office with people from different countries, it is an office with an international staff. Understanding cultures and people are crucial for the work we do.
Through the EEA and Norway Grants we worked with the NGO Homo Ecos and their climate change project. It was a cooperation full of new challenges and new focus areas. Targeting the public through classroom games and advertisements on bus stops was new to GRID-Arendal. The cooperation strengthened the two organisations as we both learned new ways of communicating environmental science.
Improving Latvian climate policy is important both for reducing emissions and for climate change adaptation. During the two-day National Climate Policy Conference, we visited one of the larger carbon sinks in Latvia, the Great Kemeri Bog. Bogs and mires reduce the risk of natural disasters like flooding and droughts because they absorb and retain water. Additionally, they are important for wildlife and store large amounts of greenhouse gasses. It is important to conserve and protect these areas in order to keep carbon dioxide and methane locked in the ground and out of the atmosphere so they don’t contribute to the problem of climate change.
The EEA and Norway Grants are not only important because they support regional and national developments in European countries, they also allow for the exchange of knowledge, science and culture. The grants promote new thinking, creative problem solving and finding solutions across national borders. They also can be the start of a longer partnership where international organization can explore new opportunities together.