THE TIGER AND THE PELICANS Can Romania become a regional leader in fighting climate change & reducing carbon footprint?
Compiled and written by Sandra Antonovic
If you have never been to Romania, or if you haven’t read more than headlines about the country, you are probably confused with the title “The Tiger and The Pelicans”. I will leave in suspense a bit longer, but by the end of this op-ed piece you should be able to understand the full meaning of the title. Even though I should talk here about the climate change and the environment and about all the possibilities to reduce carbon footprint, I think it is important that I share some basic information about the country itself. In our focus on climate change and carbon reduction we often forget to put things into perspective, take a look at the bigger picture or understand the context of a certain country or a region. In global campaigns or movements it is even easier to neglect this local momentum, that is always a very important factor. The most important factor. We should, thus, embrace the opportunity to learn a bit more about other places, countries we vaguely recognize on the map, regions we don’t know much about.
An EU country since 2007, Romania is located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, north of the Balkan Peninsula, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea. With its surface area of 238 thousand km2 Romania is slightly smaller than the US State of Oregon.
Member of the NATO, the Latin Union, Francophonie, OSCE and the UN, Romania joined EU in 2007. Romania has the population of almost 22 million people, and is a country with a considerable diaspora (over 2 million) and a large Roma minority (over 2 million as well).
70 % of the population is 15 – 65 years old (15.4 million people). This is our target group. Almost 8 million people use the internet (36% of the total population, or 52% of our target group). Even if you don’t like statistics, these numbers are making the world of difference when you are trying to define your campaign or project strategy. You always have to go back to the basics.
(Map courtesy of Wikipedia.org)
During the last decade Romania enjoyed one of the highest economic growth rates in Europe and has been referred to as “the Tiger of Eastern Europe”. This has been accompanied by a significant improvement in human development. The country has been successful in reducing internal poverty and establishing a functional democracy. However, Romania’s development suffered a major setback once the global recession hit. As a consequence, Romania was the largest debtor to the IMF in 2010. Romania still faces issues related to the infrastructure, medical services, education and corruption.
With its terrain being distributed almost equally between high mountains, hills and lowlands, Romaniaâ€™s geographical diversity has led to an accompanying diversity of flora and fauna.
Photo courtesy of http://pixdaus.com / by Artemis
When it comes to natural resources in Romania, we should mention petroleum (although the natural reserves are declining), timber, natural gas, coal, iron ore, salt, arable land and hydropower. 13 % of Romania is covered by forests, and almost half of that area consists of undisturbed forests (meaning they are not used for timber production). Romania thus has one of the largest areas of undisturbed forests in Europe â€“ this is an amazing habitat for forest ecosystems, mammals, flora and fauna species. There are almost 10,000 km2 (almost 5% of the total country area) of protected areas in Romania covering 13 national parks and three biosphere reserves.
THE DANUBE DELTA
The Danube Delta Reserve Biosphere is the second largest (after The Volga Delta) and the least damaged wetland complex in Europe, covering a total area of 5,800 km2.
Photo courtesy www.dreamdestinations.ro
The Danube River is the most international river on the planet â€“ its course runs across â€” or forms a part of the borders of several countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and four capitals: Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade. Formed over a period of more than 10,000 years, the Danube Delta continues to grow due to the 67 million tons of alluvia deposited every year by the Danube River. The Delta is formed around the three main channels of the Danube, named after their respective ports: Chilia (in the north), Sulina (in the middle), and Sfantu Gheorghe (in the south). The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve has the third largest biodiversity in the world (over 5,500 flora and fauna species), exceeded only by the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Galapagos Archipelago in Ecuador.
The Danube Delta is home to over 60% of the world’s population of pygmy cormorants (phalacrocorax pygmeus), 50% of red-breasted geese (branta ruficollis) and the largest number of white pelicans (pelecanus onocrotalus) and Dalmatian pelicans (pelecanus crispus) in Europe. It also is home to the world’s largest reed bed expanse – 625, 000 acres / 240,000 ha. Some 15,000 people inhabit the Delta area, living in 28 villages and one city (Sulina). The area was first attested by Herodotus of Halicarnassus (484 – 425 B.C.). More than half of the Delta Biosphere Reserve is virtually intact. The Danube Delta is UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Photo courtesy of www.romalien.com
THE TIGER AND THE PELICANS Now it might be quite clear why I chose the title that I did. So many unique habitats and ecosystems in Romania are or will be affected by climate change. There is a lot to protect here, like the pelicans, and Romania has proven before that it has the strength and endurance of a tiger. But it is not only about preserving the Danube delta and the forests. The urban areas need to start focusing on carbon reduction sooner, rather than later. As so many locals say: â€œWe do get a fair share of investments and there are a lot of bog foreign companies coming to Romania, they invest, they build, they offer jobs. We are just not sure if they are being environmentally conscious or if it all just comes down to revenues, income statements and profits.â€? There is a great window of opportunity in Romania, with regards to reducing carbon emissions. Low Carbon Travel Romania has the fourth largest railroad network in Europe. In 2004 the combined total transportation by rail constituted around 45% of all passenger and freight movement in the country. That percentage has not changed much until today, but there is a lot of room for increasing it in the future. The Bucharest Metro has an average ride ship of 600,000 passengers during the workweek.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org
10:10 ROMANIA IN 2011
After introducing the 10:10 campaign in Romania during the 10:10:10 wave last year, we as a 10:10 hub continued our focus and developed a 2011 plan for Romania:
1/ RAISING AWARENESS ABOUT LOW CARBON TRAVEL
Being a 24 country hub, last year we created a hub-specific campaign to promote train travel as a low carbon travel option “Cut Carbon, Choose a Train”. The campaign was first introduced in Slovenia and Croatia during a 10:10:10 wave, and Romania is the first country of Central and Eastern Europe region in our hub where the campaign was rolled out. In 2011 we will promote and raise awareness about the benefits of low carbon travel throughout Romania, in all four clusters 10:10 campaign targets – individuals, businesses, schools and organizations.
2/ ENGAGING YOUTH IN CARBON REDUCTION PROCESS VIA 10:10 TEEN PROJECT
Launched on February 9th this year, 10:10 Teen Project has proven to be a great way to get ideas and input from youth all over the world – whether it is about something they are already doing to reduce their carbon emissions, or something they would like to do or see done about it. For those who missed it, all the information about the Project, as well as the entries we have received so far can be found on www.facebook.com/1010teen or on http://1010teen.posterous.com/ The very first entry was from Vlad from Romania, who sent us a great story about his train travels: http://1010teen.posterous.com/vlad-from-romania-my-trainstory
We hope to have more entries from Romania, and to engage a large number of young people to participate in the project. Apart from sharing their ideas on carbon reduction, the 10:10 Teen Project is a great way for them to learn more about the topic, but also to engage into peer-to-peer teaching – sharing knowledge with their friends but also with participants from other countries.
3/ INSPIRING GENERAL POPULATION TO TAKE POSITIVE ACTION TOWARDS REDUCING THEIR CARBON FOOTPRINT
The one-topic posters we have introduced this year in our hub are a great and simple tool and a reminder on how a person or a family can reduce carbon footprint by taking simple action in everyday life. Posters are developed with the help of students and volunteers all over our hub, presenting thus a truly collaborative effort and ideas. In February this year we introduced the Romanian version of â€œReduce, Reuse, Recycleâ€? poster, and the poster is free for download via www.1010global.org/cee , and can also be found on 10:10 CEE page www.facebook.com/1010cee A new one-topic poster will be localized into Romanian each month, and we hope they will help spread 10:10 idea both online and offline. We are hoping to introduce a 10:10 web page in Romanian this year, and we will use many social networks and platforms to reach as many of those who use the internet in Romania. We will also be present on the field, visiting different parts of the country, and sharing 10:10 stories and experiences with the people and the organizations. Our target is to have 10 Romanian cities sign up to 10:10 this year, and we would work together with their communities on reducing their carbon footprint. Funding remains to be an issue (so far we had zero funding for Romania), but we will work through different channels in our efforts to overcome this huge obstacle.
PRESENTING 10:10 TEEN PROJECT TO SCHOOLS IN BUCHAREST
Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is a town of approximately 2 million inhabitants. Often referred to as “little Paris” or “the Paris of the East”, it shows a strong French influence in features and architecture (so called Pre-Communist era). And then there are the buildings from the communist era – a strong, sometimes even rough contrast.
Once a Royal Palace, today the National Museum of Art / Photo courtesy NektarinaNonProfit
Academy of Economic Studies / Photo courtesy NektarinaNonProfit
Carol I statue and the Central Library / Photo courtesy NektarinaNonProfit
The Army Club or The Military Club building / Photo courtesy NektarinaNonProfit
The British Embassy in Bucharest organized an event on March 10th for representatives (both pupils/students and teachers/professors) from over 20 schools. The event took place at Gheorghe Sincai College, where I had the opportunity to present 10:10 campaign in Romania, but also to introduce 10:10 Teen Project and invite all students to join us and participate in the project.
Photos from the event are available at 10:10 Central & Eastern Europe Facebook Page My deepest gratitude, for their time, help and kindness, goes to Ms Elena Livia Minca, from the British Embassy Bucharest / Ms Cristina Manescu, from the Gheorghe Sincai College / Ms Catalina Neagu and Ms Iuliana Niculae
It was a great honor to be able to see and talk to so many young people, to hear their thoughts on reducing carbon emissions and to learn what they are already doing in that context â€“ from recycling to riding a bike to school.
After 10:10 Romania and 10:10 Teen presentation and Q&A session, Ms Esther Blythe, British Embassy Deputy Head of Mission, introduced the trailer for the film Odyssey 2050 and spoke about the importance to address climate change issues in any way we can.
Both photos courtesy of NektarinaNonProfit
MEETING THE PRESS After the event I saw Ms Flavia Dragan from Romania Libera (daily newspaper) and Ms Oana Dan from Evenimentul Zilei (also daily newspaper) â€“ many many thanks to Ms Andreea Hanganu from the Communications Team, British Embassy Bucharest for organizing the meeting with the representatives of the Press. Both papers are leading daily newspapers in Romania with a paid daily circulation of 110,000 (Evenimentul Zilei) and 40,000 (Romania Libera)
ONLINE PRESS COVERAGE http://www.evz.ro/detalii/stiri/cum-va-ajunge-romania-un-model-verde-pentru-europacentrala-si-de-est-tinta-noastra-slovenia.html http://www.romanialibera.ro/timpul-liber/eco/lupta-unui-ong-croat-pentru-romania219221.html Both articles gathered over 3000 views in the first 2 days since publishing and over 30 comments, mainly positive regarding the campaign and the positive effect that it can have on Romania.
MEETING NGOs in BUCHAREST
WWF in ROMANIA
Many thanks for their time and valuable inputs to Ms Felicia Ienculescu-Popovici (Executive Director at Greenitiative) , Ms Luminita Tanasie (Programme Director at WWF Romania), Ms Ada Roxana Stan (Project Manager at Generatia Verde) and to Mr Zoli Toth (Founder of EcoFrecventa and Earth Hour Ambassador).
MEETING WITH THE NATIONAL AGENCY OF ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION
National Agency of Environment Protection
Many thanks to Ms Madalina Cozma from the Romanian National Agency of Environment Protection for her time and inputs.
Acknowledgements Many thanks for British Embassy Bucharest and Ms Elena Livia Minca for her time and all her help in organizing this visit. We are also grateful to Ms Esther Blythe , British Embassy Deputy Head of Mission for her time and help, and to all British Embassy Bucharest staff for their help and support during this visit. The 10:10 visit to Romania was sponsored by Nektarina Non Profit.
Op-ed after a visit to Bucharest in March 2011