Despite its reputation and recent repression – people power is changing cities across the region
Katowice (Poland) – Today – On the sidelines of the COP24 UN Climate Summit citizens and Mayors came together to celebrate the transition to 100% renewable energy that is already happening Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Despite its long-standing reputation as the ‘home of coal’, and recent events highlighting the difficulties that environmental activists face, there are significant positive changes happening on the ground.
Diana Popfalushi a youth activist from Lviv in the Ukraine said:
“The world is moving to 100% renewable energy and we are very proud to be a part of that. We worked to show that all citizens in our city wanted this change to make our air cleaner and the climate safer.”
Liviv is one of five cities across the region that has committed to sourcing 100% of its energy from renewable sources.
Dmytro Tkachuk, Vice Mayor of Zhytomyr (Ukraine) said:
“As the first city in the Ukraine to make such a commitment we are proud to be leading not just in the region but in the world. We did not take this decision quickly, but we made sure to consult and engage our citizens so that they would support our plan and so the plan would help them in their daily lives.”
Activism is occurring across the region, even in places where sometimes activism can be difficult, like Russia.
Dmitri Zakarliukin from (Cheliabinsk, Russia) said:
“We launched a campaign called ‘#ChelyabinskBreathe’ which plays off the Instagram hashtag that everyone knows and uses in order to amplify the city’s terrifyingly poor air quality. To solve this problem we established civic air quality monitoring system. It activated lots of citizens to care about environment, energy and climate change solutions.”
Cities and sub-national governments have become of increasing focus for climate action. As the UN continues to face challenges in advancing climate plans, it is smaller political units that are charging ahead.
Volodymyr Shmatko – Mayor of Chortkiv (Ukraine) said:
“Small cities are close communities and so can move more quickly sometimes. At small scale we have a lot of opportunities to make life better for our citizens – with cleaner air through renewable energy. That is why we have made the commitment to 100% renewable energy.”
By working together and sharing common challenges as well as solutions the city officials and activists hope to spark further change in the region and across the world.
Nino Tvaltvadze, Deeputy Mayor of Kutaisi (Georgia) said:
“We have made our city the first in Georgia to commit to 100% renewables. By connecting with other cities like ours we were able to identify how we could approach our consultations but also what challenges we were likely to encounter.”
The event was marred by news that 15 civil society observers, the majority from the region, had been detained or deported from Poland in the lead up to the COP24 conference. Several of the civil society observers had been scheduled to participate in this event or connect with the network whilst in Poland.
Svitlana Romanko 350.org’s lead in Eastern Europe, Caucuses and Central Asia said:
“There is real climate leadership here despite all obstacles. The repression of activists will not scare us off but will only double our resolve. Expect to see more cities in our region committing to 100% renewable energy as the irrepressible activism of our young people shifts hearts, minds, and governments.”
Notes to editors: