Community-led action on sustainability and climate change in Europe

From EcoliseWiki

Community-led initiatives (CLIs) arise whenever people self-organise in the places where they live to take action on issues that concern them. These issues may range from local to global in scope, and often bridge distinct scales. They may, for example both address local sustainability issues directly and at the same time consider them in global context, or pay attention both to the direct local impacts of climate change and its global causes and solutions.. As well as being effective and important in their own right, they often inspire other people, within their home communities and elsewhere, to re-think and transform their ways of thinking, acting and being in the world.

Increasing numbers of scholars how recognise the present time as a distinct geological epoch, the Anthropocene, in which human impacts significantly and unavoidably affect ecological conditions all over the world [1]. The Anthropocene raises new, complex and often unprecedented challenges, of many kinds: socio-political, economic, cultural, ecological and socio-technological. In light of this, scientists from many different disciplines are now calling for a shift in the premise of global governance to one of planetary stewardship [2].

CLIs represent a pre-emptive response, at local levels, to this call for planetary stewardship. Arising and existing across Europe and focussing on a huge range of local and global issues, they take many different forms. Building and mobilising community through diverse partnerships and innovative initiatives, their work is a vital complement to high-level political action on climate change and sustainability. Through their work towards creating low carbon alternatives to existing lifestyles, local economies and other societal structures, directly reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses and fostering independence from the fossil fuel economy, they can make significant contributions to effective, inclusive and pluralistic implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Their work often addresses themes relevant to the Sustainable Development Goals, and can provide innovative ways to implement these goals at local levels.

Understanding community-led action on climate change and sustainability is also important from a scientific perspective. CLIs are important agents in processes of sustainability transitions - the shifts in interlinked social and technical configurations in key societal domains such as energy, water and transport. Improved understanding of CLIs - what they do, the effects and the factors that enable and assist these - can help inform wider questions of appropriate technological choices and governance methods for society-wide transitions to sustainability. CLIs are also important to the science and practice of social-ecological resilience. Community-level innovations can increase adaptability and resilience, in ways that both directly affect local-level prospects for navigating social, environmental and economic changes and affecting the prospects for wider transformation.


  1. Steffen, W., Crutzen, P.J. and McNeill, J.R., 2007. The Anthropocene: are humans now overwhelming the great forces of nature AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 36(8): 614-621.
  2. Steffen, W., Persson, Å., Deutsch, L., Zalasiewicz, J., Williams, M., Richardson, K., Crumley, C., Crutzen, P., Folke, C., Gordon, L. and Molina, M., 2011. The Anthropocene: From global change to planetary stewardship. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 40(7), pp.739-761.