Green Growth Community spurs sustainable cooperation
The Green Growth Community consists of 14 projects promoting sustainable development in the Mediterranean on topics ranging from agri-food, eco-innovation, smart cities, and waste management, to green growth financing. REVOLVE interviewed the coordinator of the Green Growth Community, Mercè Boy Roura, to learn why cooperation is key to mainstreaming circularity and why the Community should serve as a model for all future cooperation.
What is the Green Growth Community and what are the main objectives it seeks to accomplish?
Interreg MED Green Growth is a community of projects promoting sustainable development in the Mediterranean region based on the sound management of the natural resources by enhancing cross-sectoral innovation practices through an integrated and territorially based cooperation approach. The community consists of 14 projects connecting 165 partners from 13 countries in the Mediterranean, with a total budget of around €30M. These projects tackle topics from agri-food, eco-innovation, smart cities, waste management to green growth financing.
The objectives of the community are to support its projects in their communication and capitalization efforts, thus increasing their impact at policy level and ensuring potential transfer and replication of their results into other territories.
The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) labelled Green Growth a ‘community’ in October 2019 to acknowledge its potential to advance cooperation in the transition to a green and circular economy and to deliver concrete benefits to the citizens of the Mediterranean region.
How would you define the concept of “circular economy” and how it is related to the Green Growth Community?
According to the European Commission, a circular economy is where the value of products, materials and resources are maintained in the economy for as long as possible, and the generation of waste is minimized. Therefore, new governance and business models and sustainable and production patterns are needed to fulfil this change of paradigm.
Considering the strong relevance of the Green Growth Community and its projects for the circular economy pillar, as well as the dynamism of this theme at the European level, we created 4 thematic working groups of projects related to the key priority areas of the EU Circular Economy Action Plan. These working groups identified the main challenges and results of the projects and allowed the creation of white papers and policy recommendations aligned with the Action Plan.
Capitalization is one of the key cooperation principles within the INTERREG Med Programme. What does this mean, and how is it going to be deployed within the Green Growth Community?
Capitalization is the systematic collection, analysis and dissemination of knowledge and shared practices to be integrated in relevant policies, making project results more visible and usable for other programs, projects or stakeholder groups. Shortly, the objective is to deliver demand-driven policy tools and measures for end-users such as policy makers.
Within this context, the Green Growth Community will analyze the results (i.e. action plan, best practices, policy recommendations, etc.) delivered by the projects of the community and select the ones that have a greater potential to be integrated into policies and regulatory frameworks in the Mediterranean region. During this process, collaboration with key stakeholders will be crucial to undertake these activities.
The Green Growth Community makes use of a Quadruple Helix strategy by bringing together partners from academia, industry, public authority and civil society. How is this structure contributing to the success of the project?
The Quadruple Helix structure engages a wide range of members including SMEs, academia, research institutes and governing authorities from different countries and cultures. Following this concept, a vast Green Growth Community of partners was created that combines a mixture of expertise with technical as well as communication backgrounds and with extensive experience in working towards innovation. This structure gave an integrated and holistic approach to project activities, such as the working groups, that facilitated overcoming challenges and finding solutions for a greener Mediterranean region.
One main objective of the Green Growth Community is to promote more circular economic models. What are the major barriers encountered when moving towards these types of models, and how can they be addressed?
Some of the challenges identified are the difficulties for companies, and in particular SMEs, to measure their environmental footprint and resource efficiency; the need for new capacities among private actors related to eco-innovation; the lack of integration between environmental and economic criteria in public procurement; or the limited access to tools, services and funds for SMEs to drive innovation in circular economy.
In general, to overcome these barriers public authorities should develop action plans and programs that incentivize the circular economy paradigm and promote knowledge exchange, experiences on best practices and solutions to adopt circular approaches among companies. The projects of the Green Growth Community provide different solutions such as action plans, tools and recommendations to overcome these obstacles in the field of green and circular economy.
The Green Growth Community focuses on the Mediterranean Basin, but all the partners of the project come from the North. How are you planning to reach the other side?
The Green Growth Community is funded by the Interreg MED Programme and its cooperation area only integrates, so far, the European countries in the northern shore of the Mediterranean. However, in this second phase we incorporated new partners with experience in the south of the Mediterranean such as REVOLVE and ANIMA Investment Network that will be key to reach partners and organize successful activities there. For instance, Green Growth Community will be present at the Mediterranean Economic Forum organized in June in Morocco and at the AMWAJ Forum in Lebanon in October 2020. Moreover, we included 3 associated partners from Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt in the partnership of the Green Growth project that will give visibility of the project in the southern shore.
Last but not least, through the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) labelling, we received the support of the 43 UfM countries – 15 of them from the south – which will facilitate the awareness and visibility to further raise support and mobilize partners in the whole Mediterranean Basin.
How can the Green Growth Community help reach the objective established by the new EU Green Deal of carbon neutrality by 2050?
The Interreg MED Green Growth Community and its projects are directly contributing to different objectives of the new EU Green Deal by proposing different tools and solutions to transition to a circular economy, transforming agriculture and rural areas and financing the transition, for example.
Furthermore, to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, a systematic holistic approach that fosters cooperation and collaboration among different stakeholders is required. The Green Growth Community has exemplified the benefits of applying an interdisciplinary and horizontal structure to Green Growth Community initiatives by applying an approach that brings together a diverse community of experts to emphasize regional needs and joint interests. As a result, the community proposes that this type of project is used as a model and a motivation for future cooperative efforts towards achieving the objectives established by the new EU Green Deal.