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Empower to Change: SDG Action through Local Authorities

A Development Education and Awareness Raising project is bringing city dwellers in Germany together with rural farmers in Romania and indigenous communities in the forests of Amazonia. They are uniting in action for a more equitable and sustainable global future, with local authorities playing a central role.

“Mayors are key people, they are opinion leaders,” said Zoltán Hajdu from the Focus Eco Center, a partner of the “Change the Power – (Em)Power to Change” project, supported by the European Union’s DEAR Programme.


Change the Power – (Em)Power to Change project brings cities and local authorities from 26 European countries together with nine partner communities in the Amazon Basin of South America to encourage cooperation and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The project is led by Climate Alliance, a network of some 1,700 members gathered from cities, municipalities and local authorities across Europe.

Action for Results

In 2018, the Change the Power - (Em)Power to Change project staged 55 events for Local Authorities, mayors and political representatives from the local national and European level, reaching 1,600 individuals. The events resulted in numerous concrete actions for change, including:

Information campaigns for behaviour change

Much of the work of the Change the Power - (Em)Power to Change project is built around campaigns. Their latest, “Change the Future” seeks to continue the success of previous campaigns by encouraging individuals to compete in taking small positive lifestyle changes, like buying more local food or recycling old electronics. For each positive action, points are accumulated. And to scale up the campaign, local authorities are being encouraged to take part in a friendly competition with other towns, cities or municipalities to see which authority can encourage the most residents to take part and positively contribute to climate action.

That campaign builds on “A Good Life is Simple”, which promotes behaviour change among urban Europeans, and initially launched under a previous DEAR project “The Future We Want - Local Authorities for Sustainable Development”. Posters, stickers and flyers for use at events, in public spaces and on billboards are free and available in English, Dutch, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian, Luxembourgian, Romanian, Czech and Greek.

By 2018, 14 European cities had shared the “A Good Life is Simple” message, reaching over a million citizens, with the campaign materials (available here) downloaded some 1,500 times. That campaign is being extended and developed over the coming two years with DEAR funding.

Climate Alliance also developed the Climate Compass, a tool for municipalities to guide them in becoming more sustainable in key areas like transport, energy or procurement. 

Example: Connecting Cologne and The Amazon

The City of Cologne is part of the Climate Alliance and through the Change the Power – (Em)Power to Change project, Cologne residents are joining with South American indigenous communities to preserve their lifestyle and better protect the Amazon Rainforest that is their home.

“The indigenous community leaders came to us, they said ‘We have to cooperate in order to save our world, to diminish the problems of climate change’, said Andreas Wolter, Vice-Mayor of the City of Cologne. “That was the point when I just knew we had to do this,” said Mr Wolter, who is also the President of Climate Alliance.

The City of Cologne has been part of Climate Alliance since 1993, and has made numerous commitments to reducing waste, carbon emissions and creating a greener environment at both the local and global level. And, through the DEAR-supported Change the Power – (Em)Power to Change project, residents of Cologne are learning from South American indigenous communities about different ways of living that are less based on consumption and more rooted in community and respect for nature.

Example: Making the Urban-Rural Link

The Change the Power – (Em)Power to Change project doesn’t only work to build bridges between the Global North and Global South. A recent event invited city representatives from Hungary and project representatives from Germany to rediscover traditional practices and lifestyles in the Transylvanian forests of Romania.

Only a few generations ago, central tenets of the Good Life is Simple approach – like eating seasonal and locally produced food – were the norm across Europe. The event demonstrated that preserving traditional practices in Europe can positively contribute to climate action.

“If there are more mayors and city leaders that share these ideas," said Mr Hajdu from Focus Eco Center, “they can help implement the ‘Good Life is Simple’ philosophy.”


DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by the DEAR Support Team to provide information about a project that receives European Commission support via the DEAR Programme. The article should not be interpreted as the official view of the Commission, or any other organisation.


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20 September 2019

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