Networking between cities to tackle the climate crisis
Published: 23 Feb 2022
Representatives from the municipalities of Nouakchott (Mauritania), Praia and Ribera Grande de Santiago (Cabo Verde) as well as Dakar and Pikine (Senegal) travelled to Tenerife to exchange knowledge and experiences in the fight against climate change and shift towards sustainable energy.
The Covenant of Mayors initiative aims to create a global alliance of cities and local governments committed to climate change and sustainable energy, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. To this end, 277 cities in sub-Saharan Africa, which impact more than 137 million people, have signed and committed to the Covenant of Mayors for Sub-Saharan Africa (CoM SSA).
Since 2019, the CoM SSA programme, co-funded by the European Union and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), has been working with the above-mentioned signatory cities in Cabo Verde, Mauritania and Senegal on three pillars or objectives: planning effective actions to respond to climate change, supporting sustainable urban infrastructure projects and climate-related investments, and facilitating partnerships between cities and regions through knowledge sharing.
Within the framework of the Covenant of Mayors, a meeting between representatives from African cities and several Tenerife municipalities that are signatories of the Covenant of Mayors of Europe, facing common challenges. This meeting was held on the island of Tenerife from 8 to 10 February 2022. The event brought together institutional representatives of the cities of Praia and Ribera Grande de Santiago (Cabo Verde); Nouakchott (Mauritania); Dakar and Pikine (Senegal); the Council, and several mayors of the island of Tenerife with the objective of promoting exchanges between the signatory cities and identifying possible twinning and horizontal cooperation between them.
The representatives of the institutions exchanged experiences on the development of climate action plans in meetings with the mayors of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, La Matanza, Candelaria, La Laguna and Garachico. They also met with representatives of the Canary Islands Technology Institute (ITC) and the Tenerife City Council. The Sustainable Energy Access and Climate Action Plan is a fundamental instrument for Africa's transition towards a climate resilient, just, low emission and energy secure future for all.
Local challenges and the importance of community participation
Among all the activities that took place during the three days, the round table held on Wednesday 9 February at the Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (TEA) in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is worth highlighting. Representatives of the Tenerife City Council, AECID and project managers from the invited cities participated.
The African spokespersons explained the actions carried out, thanks to the support and funding of the Covenant of Mayors, with projects for photovoltaic energy in public spaces, waste management and bioclimatic buildings. To this end, they rely on the participation of citizens through the creation of local committees, to carry out training activities and promote the incorporation of women. They also carry out studies on greenhouse gas emissions, the risk and vulnerability of their territory to climate change and access to energy.
"For a project to be successful, it must be highly adapted to the context and the technical, socio-cultural and economic challenges of each area," said Nicolás Larrañaga, AECID coordinator.
In this sense, the coordinator of the Covenant of Mayors of Pikine, Ndiaga Fall, assured that "this convention, which we have been part of since 2017, creates new actions for us, and therefore we have to sensitize politicians and officials who make decisions. "However, he added, "we have been surprised by the involvement of neighbours and communities in the areas where we started working. "
The technician of the CoM SSA project in the city of Praia, Ricardo Gomes, emphasised two relevant issues when implementing environmental improvement actions: "we need to increase the participation of women in the fight against climate and energy transition; and to support young people so that they feel included in these initiatives," he said.
For his part, Ebaye Dah Emine, head of the CoM SSA project in Nouakchott, explained that "the projects that are being initiated contribute to the improvement of air quality, as well as the recovery of water for consumption and waste management. Many opportunities are open to us and we adapt the solutions to each reality. "
Smart microgrids, a future-oriented alternative for optimising energy production
At the same time, the representatives had the opportunity to learn about the sustainability actions developed by ITC, such as the MicrogridBlue project, smart microgrids for the massive integration of distributed renewable energies in the electrical systems of the Canary Islands, Senegal and Cabo Verde; as well as the La Gomera 100% Sustainable Plan, which commits to a renewable energy model through these microgrids. They also visited the Arico Environmental Complex to learn how waste is managed on the island; the La Quinta Roja farm in Garachico, where they shared their knowledge on efficient irrigation and pest control in banana cultivation; and the Montillo Park in La Matanza.
Africa's future lies in its cities
Climate change is affecting all regions of the world. Local governments in Africa are experiencing the negative effects of this environmental crisis, which will become more severe and frequent in the coming decades.
"We need to act urgently now. The challenges and solutions lie in our local governments," said local spokespersons from the countries participating in the CoM SSA project. Without a doubt, "the future of Africa lies in its cities. Local governments are a breeding ground for innovation and will be the main drivers of the change we need," they added.
In short, the climate and energy crisis is a global problem that knows no borders or countries, and the sum of our efforts is the only way to achieve targets that will limit the consequences of this reality as much as possible.
The meeting in Tenerife showed, once again, that the Covenant of Mayors for Sub-Saharan Africa is the paradigm of how to think globally and act locally.