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Citizens mobilization and empowerment towards Climate Change: the example of COOLTORISE

“I learned a lot and met many people whom we were able to help,” says Jessica, a student of geography, territorial analysis, and sustainability. She is one of the 40 SEPAs (Summer Energy Poverty Agents) trained in the Barcelona area for the Cooltorise project, focused on summer energy poverty. These agents, volunteers from various organizations, took on the responsibility of conducting workshops for citizens, mainly in the months preceding summer, as a proactive measure to boost collective awareness about the most effective strategies for mitigating the impacts of summer heat, especially in the most vulnerable households.

The 64 workshops conducted by these agents through ABD Group and Ecoserveis Association in 2022 and 2023 have reached 540 participants in the Barcelona area. They have focused on two main aspects: first, providing attendees with essential information to optimize household utility bills (gas, water, and electricity). Second, the workshops aimed to raise awareness and motivate the adoption of habits that improve the use of passive cooling strategies, safeguarding vulnerable individuals from the effects of heat.

However, these activities go beyond merely offering practical tips; they aim to inform individuals about their energy rights and equip them with channels and effective strategies to assert their rights effectively. In simpler terms, they act as a catalyst, fostering social mobilization for climate change. Andrea’s experience is a testament to this, as she discovered in Cooltorise the ideal platform to merge her passion for climate activism with the social dimension of volunteering. Describing herself as a “socially and environmentally conscious” person, Andrea channeled her interest in energy poverty through mapping at Fenix Garden, outdoor interventions at Espai Llavors, and participation in various workshops.

In the era of escalating climate change, the intensification of extreme hot weather and heat waves is casting a profound impact on our daily lives. The rising temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events are not just inconveniences – they are direct threats to our health and well-being. In order to collectively confront these challenges, it is crucial to integrate considerations of cooling needs and the threat of overheating into the larger discourse surrounding energy poverty. However, this need for comprehensive climate mitigation and adaptation strategies becomes an extremely high-priority task when addressing people in a vulnerable situation.

Citizen mobilization is crucial here – not only for placing specific demands related to climate change on the media and political agenda but also for fostering collective empowerment and preventing the most vulnerable groups to the effects of climate change from being the least informed about the best strategies to face them. Furthermore, citizen collaboration, mutual empowerment, and the growth of collective bottom-up knowledge are some of the pillars of more cooperative and egalitarian societies. In this vein, Brisa, another volunteer in the project, emphasized the importance of ensuring that these dissemination and awareness tasks reach the generations that will inherit these challenges. Through Cooltorise, Brisa channeled her interest in energy poverty in Barcelona and Catalonia, actively contributing to organizing activities for children, teenagers, and young adults with Coolkids.

The experiences of Jessica, Andrea, and Brisa are a clear example of the potential of citizen empowerment to tackle the negative effects of climate change that severely and frequently impact individuals in vulnerable situations in our societies.

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