Public-private partnerships must be replaced with public-community collaborations for climate and wellbeing.
The European Commission presented in July 2021 its plan to deliver the 2020 Agenda. European Green Deal (EGD). The commission envisages the transformation of the European Union into ‘a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy’, while ensuring greenhouse-gas emissions are reduced to net-zero by 2050, economic growth is decoupled from resource use and ‘no person or place will be left behind’.
The EGD Places heavy emphasisprivate-sector financing, encouraging large scale climate investments which channel financial flow. It is based on the Failure modelPublic-private Partnerships (PPPs), which socialize the risk of climate investments while privatizing the profits.
It also fails to invest in communities or recognise the needs of the people. Important rolepublic investment in the energy transition and planning. The policy-makers tendTo overlook the important contributions municipalities and community organisations are making to reduce emissions in real terms—from the introduction of more climate-friendly urban transport to House retrofittingThey will also be able to participate in local programs.
The 40-year neoliberal experiment(compounded by austerity of the last decade) was long enough to prove in Europe that not only are PPPs more expensive but they require the sacrifice of transparency on the altar of ‘commercial confidentiality’. They also reduce the capacity of public-sector co-ordination of public policies, from climate change to social exclusion.
According to the Transnational Institute, (TNI), DatabaseThese are the top reasons local authorities are abandoning PPPs to bring services back in-house. To date, 1,556 successful deprivatisations have been completed.
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Collaborations between the public and the community
We need to rethink our approach. A new paradigm must simultaneously address climate safety as well as social equality. Public commitment and financing can be a starting point. Municipalities can partner with local residents, organisations, and not global consultants or private investors.
Public-community partnerships are innovative ways to coproduce ideas and policies, or jointly deliver public goods. They allow for exploration of democratic public provision and are based on the principle of empowering communities to address complex social and environmental challenges. TNI’s Recent reportTo understand the workings of finance, ownership, governance, and governance, we examined 43 collaborations between public-community organizations. We also looked at ten more cases.
There are many collaborations that can be made in the energy sector, especially when it comes to tackling poverty and fighting climate change. Municipalities are more equipped than private energy monopolies for detecting local problems, and can work together with communities to find solutions. They can address problems proactively and also commit to strategies for just transformation.
The collaboration between a citizens’ co-operative and the municipal government to produce renewable energy in the small town of Wolfhagen in Germany, following remunicipalisation of its grid from the multinational E.ON, ProvidesIt is a perfect example of coownership, cofinancing, and co-decision making. The model has been successful since 2005 when BEG Wolfhagen purchased 25% of the municipal electricity company. Wolfhagen’s citizens were empowered through joint ownership to become co-decision-makers in energy production and supply.
Membership of the co-operative has since grown to 814 (7 per cent of the town’s residents) and working-class families reap the benefits of lower energy costs. Co-ownership of the local energy infrastructure means new financial resources are entirely retained within the community—to support local kindergartens, for example.
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Through this public-community collaboration, Wolfhagen’s citizens also play an active role in the transition to 100 per cent renewable energy—a commitment made by the municipality in 2008. A citizen-centred, just transition requires local co-ownership of renewables.
Involving citizens in Cádiz
Municipalities can get involved in co-producing policies for a just transition to help them understand their needs and give them a voice in addressing the climate crisis. An outstanding example can be found in Cádiz in Spain, where the municipality responded to overwhelming calls for a 100 per cent renewable-energy model.
To engage its citizens seriously, the city Two working groups should be established, on energy transitions and energy poverty. The mission of the first is help Transform Eléctrica de CádizThe city’s majority-owned energy company,, was incorporated into a 100 per cent renewable supplier. Its membership draws upon the local energy co-operative, environmental organisations, the University of Cádiz and Eléctrica de Cádiz.
The task of the working group on energy poverty was to design a subsidy that the municipality would provide to families with financial difficulties. The social-discount program (Bono Social GaditanoThe committee created a () to provide financial relief and energy literacy.
These two working groups in Cádiz have kickstarted a process of participatory co-production of policy. They have allowed diverse groups—from the community, academia and others with technical expertise—to come together and work on local challenges to tackle the climate crisis.
Public-community collaborations can help us find innovative solutions for our social and environmental problems. They are living proof that public funds invested in communities can create the change we seek.
The EGD represents an historic opportunity. There is simply no time to repeat the mistakes of the past by over-relying on private-finance leverage and PPPs—or, relatedly, on overly-optimistic predictions about non-proven technologies, such as carbon capture.
Instead, precious public money can be used directly Local communities are supportedThis allows for real emissions reductions, and just transition in this moment. Cities and citizens can effectively collaborate to ensure that no place or person is left behind.
Tackling the climate crisis can thus be transformed into a positive agenda of rebuilding communities for social wellbeing—with the values of solidarity, justice and democracy at its core.