My very first time in Brest was in 2009, when I arrived in this city located at the very West of Brittany as part of a student exchange with my high school in Bologna, Italy.
9 years since then, after finishing my studies in Urban planning and European policies, I find myself again on the western edge of continental Europe, where my IVY experience has just begun.
Even though Brest is not located in a cross-border region, the city has always looked at the ocean as an opportunity to develop, to exchange goods with European partners. Today, many of these ‘goods’ have become immaterial and Brest local stakeholders are exchanging ‘good practices’ with other cities facing similar issues.
Energy efficiency and energy poverty are two major challenges that North-West Europe cities are facing today. The aim of the ‘Climate Active Neighbourhoods’ (CAN) project is to fight climate change by empowering citizens to become fully involved in energy transition.
And this process starts in our homes.
In a sentence, we could say the CAN aims at improving heat insulation in households by breaking isolation at the same time. It is no coincidence that both terms derive from Latin insula (“island”). And as the English poet John Donne wrote:
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”
Issues such as climate change can only be tackled collectively and local communities are definitely the best level to start acting for change.
With the CAN project, the EU enters people’s living spaces, their homes, their daily life. “Energy visits” and small retrofits like those implemented in Brest by local associations such as Ener’gence and Les Compagnons Bâtisseurs produce direct impacts on energy consumption and bills. Europe has never been closer to one of its citizen’s most basic need: staying warm during winter.
Over the next 5 months, I will be mainly involved with organising next winter’s activities which will focus on Bellevue neighbourhood, as well as with preparing our June event in Brest, on energy poverty.
Apart from these exciting tasks, the real added value of receiving an Interreg volunteer is to bring an external point of view to the project and -most importantly- to build bridges between local civil society, citizens and institutions. The idea is also to boost the visibility of the project and to spread its benefits among local communities, showing that the EU is fully committed to improving its citizen’s daily life. 5 months to prove that our actions represent much more than just “a drop in the (Atlantic) ocean”!
By Raffaele VIAGGI, 24, Italy