Liberating Ties*

Policy op-ed by Claire Roumet

Our Ukrainian members are going through living hell. The Mayors have become Generals organising civil defence and running essential public services, when they can. Their determination is total, and while maintaining ties with them may seem paltry, this window to the outside world is vital. Mayors are direct targets, as proven by the kidnappings last weekend of the Mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, and the Mayor of Dniproroudné, Evguen Matveïev. As a network of elected representatives, we stand by their side.

Our strength is our ability to mobilise all of our energy through networking, through ties.

At the Climate Chance Summit in Nantes, Katta Tüttö, Deputy Mayor of Budapest, recalled just how vital the meetings between elected representatives of major cities had been during the first months of the pandemic. They gave representatives a way to share the most basic information (for example, how to get hold of masks!), to learn from one another as they went, and to discuss medium-term strategies. Spontaneous networks were established at every level – from neighbourhoods to regions and Europe-wide.

We can rely on these networks to organise the transfer of equipment and skills as soon as possible to restore water, energy, travel and transport. We have learnt, crisis after crisis, not to start from scratch each time.

Another example of this are mobilising associations in our cities that can best organise the arrival of refugees. Beyond emergency management, however, it would seem that our leaders at European and national level have no compass to better prepare us, to better anticipate. Elected officials and municipal administrations have learned to be the first responders at the front line. But we also all need to be strategists and set up preventive measures. The latest IPCC scenarios published this month say it all: the transformations required in our lifestyles will not come about if we are not capable of great social justice.

Municipal action, as with national and European policies, needs to be conjugated in the present, simple future and future perfect tenses. Today, tomorrow and in a few years. Perhaps even add a small dose of the imperative, but it should be minimal, since the social and democratic contract is what must be renewed and injunctions have almost no chance of being productive in this outlook!

The present, in terms of energy, is how are we going to withstand the shock, the veritable economic tsunami of the cost of fossil fuels. This has a direct impact on food, heating and mobility needs. And as always, the most vulnerable among us will be the ones who find themselves trapped by these constraints. But it is possible to anticipate and to decide which services we really need. Rather than substituting one energy for another (which will take much longer than the months between now and next winter!), we need to look now for what we can stop. There is no need to talk about individual sobriety or thermal comfort. Those who can do so, will, but it’s far from a sufficient solution. How do we negotiate closures? Prepare the future through deliberation, to equitably share rare energy. And above all, invest together and sustainably in abundant and inexhaustible energy, in liberating ties.

* Les liens qui libèrent (“Liberating Ties”) is a great French publishing house which has released numerous works on ecology, on climate change, on democracy:!-656-1-1-0-1.html