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Smart Villages and the European Green Deal: Alignment and Time for Collective Action



Jane Feeney is a researcher, writer and communications consultant. She works with the United Nations, NGOs, academics and activists to inform policy and inspire action for people, nature and climate. 


A report on ‘Smart Villages contribution to the European Green Deal, Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies’ has been developed by E40 and ECOLISE, as part of the EU-funded Smart Rural 27 project and expected to be published soon. The report explores the role of Smart Villages in delivering the ambitions of the European Green Deal.  

This report comes at an important time. The upcoming European elections in June 2024 are critical to securing the most powerful policy tool we have towards a greener, fairer and more sustainable Europe: the European Green Deal.

The report stresses the untapped potential and need for greater alignment between the role of rural communities/ Smart Villages and the European Green Deal. In particular it highlightes that:

  • Stakeholders stress the importance of local approaches to address global challenges and promoting links between local (social) innovation and the ecological transition.
  • Successful smart solutions are holistic, address multiple challenges (economic, social, and environmental) and align with local needs and priorities.
  • There is a need and an opportunity for greater alignment between rural development priorities, smart village strategies and European policy if the European Green Deal is to become a transformative agenda for Europe at all levels.

Furthermore, the report also identified priority areas for Smart Villages and the European Green Deal, such as:

Farm-to-fork: Smart Villages across Europe are seeking to enhance local food production and promote local products. By shortening supply chains while supporting jobs, these villages can help to implement the EU Farm-to-Fork strategy. However, for this to happen, sustainable agriculture and organic food production must be a viable business option. Innovative business models and financial mechanisms, product certification standards, and smart farming technologies can all support rural farmers to transition to more sustainable practices and retain young workers.

Biodiversity: Nature brings essential ecosystem services as well as cultural, recreational and aesthetic value to rural communities. This study has found that to carry out successful biodiversity actions at the local level, mindset change, collaboration between various local stakeholders, diversification of financial resources and measurable common goals are crucial. Smart villages can be considered a valuable tool in reaching the goals of the EU Biodiversity Strategy and Nature Restoration Law if increasing biodiversity at local level becomes one of the objectives of a local strategy, gathering people around a common vision of their village development.

Clean energy: Achieving energy autonomy and reaching zero emissions are strategic goals for many rural communities and smart villages. Funding from LEADER and regional authorities represents an important enabler for clean energy initiatives such as renewable energy projects. Greater legal and technical support is needed from relevant ministries and greater flexibility to allow public-private partnerships in sustainable energy communities and other clean energy initiatives.

Sustainable and smart mobility: Smart Villages can facilitate the shift to a diversity of smart rural mobility solutions, which are central to meeting climate and environmental goals, as well as quality of life improvements in rural areas. Towns and villages are embracing smart technology, electric mobility and shared transport models to achieve more sustainable and inclusive transport options.

Other themes include climate action (a transversal theme), circular economy, sustainable building and renovation, and zero pollution. Tackling waste appears as an important objective among the smart village strategies. Sustainable tourism emerges as a strategic priority for many rural villages, aligning with the “greener EU tourism” objective and coinciding with different  themes (e.g. mobility, biodiversity, climate action). In nearly half of the CAP Strategic Plans analysed, interventions that indirectly support Smart Villages have linkages to the European Green Deal.

It’s Time for Collective Action

Citizen-led initiatives that aim to improve people’s lives while respecting nature’s limits are rapidly growing in Europe. Over 2 million Europeans are already engaged in the energy transition alone, not to mention urban gardens, community-supported agriculture, exchange systems like car-sharing and time banks and many other diverse initiatives. Politicians often overlook the crucial role of these collective, citizen-driven actions.

An advocacy campaign spearheaded by ECOLISE aims to bring communities and community-led initiatives together to advocate for a strong European Green Deal that puts people and the planet first.

ECOLISE has invited individuals, community groups and initiatives, non-governmental and civil society organisations, public sector institutions, businesses, universities and research institutes and change makers across all levels to join us.

Sign the Time for Collective Action Manifesto and join the movement to demand a strong European Green Deal that puts people and the planet first.

#TimeforCollectiveAction #VoteFutureEU

Where can I find examples of inspiring initiatives?


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