Like most large global cities, Paris is essentially a collection of smaller ‘villages’ … the many suburbs that stretch out beyond the River Seine and are connected through an efficient Metro system.
One of these outlying areas is that of Montreuil, and this weekend it is proudly holding a Citizens Summit in timing with COP21 and as a way of not only showcasing what that community is doing to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change, but also to provide a platform to enable local groups to participate in community sponsored events and activities.
The weekend’s stated purpose is to: “propose solutions and serves as a chance to exchange and share information” and the Mayor of Montreuil, Patric Bessac proudly stated that “what we achieve (on this weekend) will decide our future and the futures of our children, of the current century and of those to come …”.
We travelled to Montreuil on the Metro, with a lot of families, young people and the curious, like us (Not many tourists though) yesterday and joined the crowds there as we wandered the local streets, all car less for the event, and enjoyed meeting those who were there to share their experiences and their concerns.
We met some local farmers who had come in to Montreuil from the surrounding countryside, to express their concerns about the growth of agriculture business, which they believed was not in individual family farms’ best interests; we met some local women from a local group who were actively recycling and then selling on products to their neighbors; we once again met urban bee keepers, and tasted honey from hard working bees who lived in the streets of Montreuil and foraged on rooftop gardens and balcony veggie patches.
There was much that was familiar to Australia, but there were also some differences. Being part of Europe has meant, for the citizens of Montreuil that some approaches to mitigation for the effects of climate change are often framed for them by central governments with little or no recognition of local impacts or needs.
In the classic French manner, the town has rebelled against these structures somewhat by joining over 1200 other European municipalities to pledge itself to go beyond the goals of the EU Agreement.
They have pledged to reduce the areas’ local greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20%; by improving relations energy efficiency by at least 20% and by ensuring that at least 20% of energy consumed in the local region is from renewable resources.
The people we met were proud of their achievements and keen to share their plans and solutions with us. They were thrilled that we have come all the way from Australia (isn’t it over 20 hours by plane?) to meet and talk to them. It was a truly memorable experience.