As Good Energies Alliance Ireland and EKOenergy are two environmental NGOs operating within the Erasmus+ European Solidarity Corps network, both having sustainable energy transition and climate action as their core mission, we decided to start collaborating more closely towards our common goals. We believe that like-minded civil society organisations getting together can really amplify the effort for the common good of our communities and Europe overall. This joint article sheds a light on our respective work in our countries and explores pathways of mutual endeavour.
Emerging together, yet separate
Both organisations started around the same time in 2012. While the grassroots environmental organisation GEAI was establishing itself in Ballinaglera, at the heart of rural Ireland, the international non-profit EKOenergy emerged in Helsinki as a part of the Finnish Nature Conservation Association. Powered by volunteers both local and international, these small NGOs promote sustainability and climate action every day through their work.
Right after its foundation, GEAI animated a nation-wide campaign against hydraulic fracking operations in Ireland until, in 2017, a legal ban of all fracking activities in the Republic was enacted. After this turning point, GEAI focused more on research and promotion of sustainable energy usage, engaging with the local communities through household energy surveys, transition roadmaps, seminars, school workshops and so on. Today, GEAI’s focus has shifted more towards climate action with project CRóGA (Climate-Resilient Opportunities for Generations Ahead) aiming at generating a bottom-up programme for just transition and a climate neutral Leitrim by 2030.
Over in Finland, EKOenergy became the first international ecolabel for electricity, with the aim of creating a globally recognisable tool to promote sustainable renewable electricity. Immediately after the launch in 2013, they started reaching out to energy sellers and consumers in European countries, and the first license agreements were signed. By 2015 they had started creating partnerships beyond Europe and today the ecolabel is available in over 40 countries.
Engaged in climate action and sustainability
Although coming from different backgrounds and operating on a different scale, both NGOs ultimately share the same goals and objectives within the climate agenda.
GEAI is engaged at grassroots level, promoting sustainable energy uses and animating climate action within the local community. Its mission, in a nutshell, is a fossil-free, thriving and resilient rural Ireland. They advocate for a just transition and climate neutrality, promote agroecological practices and foster community energy projects and household energy saving.Similarly EKOenergy’s mission is to work towards a world where energy is generated and consumed sustainably and democratically and where nature and biodiversity are respected. Therefore EKOenergy created an ecolabel that promotes the most sustainable forms of energy and raises funds for additional climate and biodiversity protection worldwide.
Both EKOenergy and GEAI believe that world leaders need to start treating the climate crisis as a real emergency. To make that happen, we demand a concerted effort from all swathes of society to put pressure on governments and institutions. At the end of the day, it is binding targets that make the difference and civil society has the power to make politicians accountable for that. EKOenergy is part of Climate Action Network Europe and together with other members we aim for ambitious climate targets by 2030, including a 65% emission reduction. We also support campaigns against subsidies for fossil fuels and against the use of coal and fossil gas.
When civil society organisations push together, we have more chances to succeed. We share the same beliefs that change must come from the bottom-up and has to permeate through all levels of society and spread in every corner of the world. To achieve such “cosmopolitan” outreach, both organisations involve international volunteers in their work through the European Erasmus+ program, to great benefits.
Two allies in the Erasmus+ landscape
Every year, both NGOs welcome new young volunteers from different European and neighbouring countries, bringing in new ideas, personal skills and fresh motivation.
At EKOenergy, each volunteer focuses on the countries which match their language skills. Thanks to the contributions of 58 volunteers over the past eight years, their website is available in 20 languages and they are able to contact companies and organisations worldwide. EKOenergy’s team is also involved in climate activism through their social media platforms and during the weekly Fridays For Future demonstrations in front of the parliament building.
Volunteers who spend a year with GEAI have the opportunity to be deeply involved in the Irish climate action universe, whether in the cybersphere or live, working in close contact with the local community, doing energy and climate-related research, and having a flavour of the policy-design process.
Through the European Solidarity Corps program, volunteers from both NGOs have the opportunity to discover a new country, learn a new language and develop new skills.
Complementing and strengthening each-other through climate action
Both organisations are working towards speeding up the transition to 100% renewable energy as well as increasing knowledge and discourse around renewable energy and biodiversity, amongst the public in general along with decisionmakers and large corporate consumers. Through their actions they are helping to realise many of the intertwined UN Sustainable Development Goals. Finally, by collaborating together and forming partnerships with other environmental NGOs, their work complements each other’s efforts.
“If we at GEAI were called to identify the one thing that makes us get out of bed in the morning, our long-term vision, it would be empowering the rural community to take the reins of their own resilience, putting climate action in service of the livelihoods and wellbeing of current and future generations.”Nicolò G. Tria, Research Officer & Project Lead at GEAI.
On the other hand…
“Over at EKOenergy, we have a more international vision that goes beyond Finland. Our aim is to continue to grow in more countries and by doing so, spreading the word about the most sustainable form of energy generation. We envision a world where clean renewable energy is the only option.”Steven Vanholme, EKOEnergy founder.
GEAI’s grassroots climate action initiative, CRóGA, is what’s kept them busy for the last year and a half. They passed phase I (county carbon investor study) and II (community climate dialogue) and have just moved into phase III, which is about mixing the main outcomes of the two previous phases in order to finalise a “strategy-action plan” to put County Leitrim on track to meet Climate Neutrality before the mid-century. They have just compiled a first draft of the mitigation scenarios and will soon analyse the bankability of a selection of hands-on, climate-proof actions that were sketched by the climate dialogue community in the first place.
At EKOenergy there have also been recent developments in the UK, with Green Energy UK becoming the first UK energy provider to offer EKOenergy-labelled energy in late 2019. We are continuously expanding around the world and have now got our first licensees in New Zealand (Our Energy) and Russia (Uralenergosbyt). EKOenergy have also been growing when it comes to consumers, with Ritex being the first German consumer to use the logo on their products. Thanks to EKOenergy consumers worldwide, several Climate and Environmental Fund projects have been made possible. Most recently, we have helped finance a project to bring solar to the Pandu Gupha Health Post in Nepal.
Thank you to everyone who is working with us towards a more sustainable future and a world powered by 100% renewable energy. By working together we can reach more people and achieve more results.