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Earth Day 2021

Earth Day 2021

Why today you can write history

This year’s Earth Day is unique compared to any other in the past fifthly years of its existence. The COVID-19 virus which spread out across the entire globe, reaching all corners of society on planet earth, gave us time to think. Time to plan different. Time to act different. Today most of us are aware of the negative effects of human behaviour on the climate and the consequences this has for the future of our home. Despite our awareness over the past decades, we are still far from securing all future generations and preserving planet earth in the long-term.

Bottom-up versus Top-down approach

Earth Day has been responsible for many local and regional initiatives related to climate action. Examples are community clean ups, gardens, recycling and organized campaigns to educate and encourage people and companies to act. On the other hand, in the past decade, the approach of climate action seems to be moving more and more towards a top-down approach in the form of national and regional legislation. Starting from a movement in the US back in 1970 and going global in 1990, 2010 marked the year of A Billion Acts of Green and The Canopy Project. Besides this, institutions like the European Union have introduced more policy tools to combat climate change. An example is the EU emissions trading system which is a cornerstone of the EU’s policy to combat climate change and covers around 40% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. Another important aspect is the European Green Deal which has the aim of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent. Currently there is a proposal to make this plan into a legal obligation through the preposition of the European Climate Law. These legal frameworks can be used as tools by all sorts of organization at regional, national and local level to steer decision making towards more climate inclusive plans.

The role of municipalities

Municipalities can play a crucial role in adhering to the legislation put in place from above. Laws will help to guide local municipalities to take the lead in making changes for a greener tomorrow.

“Cities must be an integral part of international efforts to make our economies more sustainable, with local and national policymakers working together to reduce urban environmental impact, stimulate growth and improve well-being for their residents”

- OECD Deputy Secretary General Yves Leterme.

Urban Street Nature-Based design by OKRA Landscape Architects

There are a few ways which can help municipalities incorporate green decisions in their policy making agenda. It can help to connect the principles of Earth Day to goal number 13 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”. It revolves around strengthening the resilience and adaptive capacity to climate related problems. It is also important not to think too big. Start with local projects.

A successful example is the small-scale project of the PZH (Provincie Zuid-Holland) – Rotterdam garden designed by Bert Dautzenberg (Green Art International).


This is a local initiative from the municipality of Rotterdam and Shanghai inspired by ‘Resilient City – Feeding and Greening Megacities’. The garden design has multiple functions such as, climate adaptation, education, art and public engagement.

It is not about yesterday, it is about tomorrow, but today. Today is the time to make a change, do different and write history.

Earth Day - EU Green Cities & Sites Development Foundation
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Original document:

  • Published: 22-4-2021

  • Personal author(s): van Dalen, Ditte

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