While great strides have been made in the global dialogue on sustainability, local actions and involvement are necessary catalysts for implementing real change. Local leaders are on the frontlines of addressing the impacts of climate change on their communities while at the same time creating green job opportunities, energy savings, and a healthier environment.
Each year on Earth Day, we and our partners invite local leaders worldwide to participate in the annual Global Day of Conversation, a platform for leaders to engage with their communities in conversations on challenges and opportunities related to sustainability. These discussions help constituents and other stakeholders achieve a deeper, shared understanding of the complex challenges and opportunities facing the Earth and all its local communities as they strive to build a sustainable future.
Through these dialogues, leaders share best environmental practices, educate the public, and elevate the prominence of local government in the global sustainability dialogue.
In April 2010, in honor of Earth Day, Earth Day Network and its partners ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies worked with over 400 local leaders worldwide to engage their communities in an interactive dialogue on the environment. In 2011, the Global Day of Conversation convened over 500 local leaders around the world. Following these events, Earth Day Network compiled success stories and best practices to share in a report with local governments worldwide.
Mayors and local officials have organized these events globally. Previous Global Day of Conversation dialogues have emphasized issues like climate change, energy efficiency, water reduction, transportation, environmental education, and clean energy jobs and investment. These discussions have often served as launch pads for innovative sustainability strategies. As policy innovators, local leaders can develop solutions that can be scaled to regional, national and international levels.
For example, the Qatar Foundation International hosted a Global Day of Conversation where the Associate Vice Minister for the Environment engaged students in a dialogue on Sustainable Energy and the Green Economy. In Mexico City, the Minister of the Environment conducted a virtual chat dedicated to Earth Day, asking every citizen to connect and participate. In Sunderland UK, the Youth Parliament, in coordination with Earth Day Network, hosted the second annual Sunderland Global Day of conversation with city officials. Topics discussed ranged from renewable energy, fuel efficient cars, and sustainability efforts throughout the city. Sunderland was just recently ranked first for climate change policy planning and second for the ecological footprint in the UK’s The Sustainable Cities Index 2010.
This year, Earth Day’s theme is “Environmental and Climate Literacy” – we need to build a global citizenry fluent in the concept of climate change and inspired by environmental education to act in defense of the planet.
In line with this theme, we are asking city leaders around the world to host a roundtable event organized around environmental education and issue a 2017 Earth Day Proclamation. By using Earth Day to call attention to this subject, Earth Day Network hopes to increase awareness about the importance of environmental education and spur progress towards global environmental and climate literacy. A worldwide discussion of environmental education could also shed light on successful local initiatives that are capable of replication in other cities, states, or countries.
To support the planning and implementation of your city’s roundtable, we have created a toolkit (which can be found here) that contains further information about Global Day of Conversation, a draft Earth Day 2017 proclamation, and sample media to introduce and promote your event. In past years, more than a thousand elected officials have participated in Global Day of Conversation around the world. This year, we are excited to see it continue to expand and support efforts to drive environmental education globally.
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