Support bottom-up initiatives
Citizens are crucial in helping cities achieve their CO2 emission reduction targets, in terms of understanding the need for environmental policies and changes in behaviour. The Hague, however, decided to take citizen participation to the next level. The city was convinced that letting community groups take the lead in sustainability action and innovation would achieve greater momentum and engagement, new ideas and better results.
The city allocated a budget of €1.4 million to its sustainability scheme, from which grants of up to €8,000 are offered to citizens with ideas for improving the environment or reducing energy use and emissions in their neighbourhood. These grants are for basic costs like setting up bank accounts and paying for research, legal and professional advice so that a group of neighbours can become a sustainable association or foundation with a feasible idea.
To mobilise all citizens – not just active environmentalists – the scheme was carefully designed to encourage inclusivity and creativity. Ideas are evaluated on the basis of neighbourhood support rather than fixed criteria. And word about the scheme has spread through case studies published in the press and on the city’s website. As a result, while the first year’s 27 plans came primarily from sustainability frontrunners, 80% of groups are now made up of new activists.
The Hague city Hall, citizens