CIFAL Findhorn Launch

CIFAL Findhorn in partnership with Moray College UHI presents

Climate change and declining oil production are two of the main threats we must now boldly and creatively face. In all debates on future energy policy, the question is what are the challenges of change and how will we move from one means of generating energy to another?

The Sustainable Energy Solutions event, today marked the launch of CIFAL Findhorn, the first UN Training Centre in Northern Europe. CIFAL Findhorn is part of a global network of 12 Unitar international training centres. Local authorities and partners attended the launch at the Universal Hall of the Findhorn Foundation in a spirit of celebration and excitement.

Bettina Kaltenhaeuser of Unitar began by cordially welcoming everyone to the official opening of the Sustainable Energy Solutions training and introducing CIFAL. “One of Unitar’s training programmes is dedicated to organising seminars for local authorities. It’s called The Decentralised Co-operation Programme. In the past three years, Unitar has created 12 centres worldwide each targetting the local authorities of a particular region. This network is called CIFAL, which is a French acronym meaning International Training Centre for Local Authorities. With this training, it is the CIFAL Findhorn centre that we officially inaugurate today. This centre will specialise in Integrated Sustainable Organisation based on the extensive knowledge of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN). CIFAL Findhorn, in turn, will develop an innovative and creative training curriculum in that field and later export its expertise to developing countries. The founding partners are the Findhorn Foundation, The Moray Council Incorporated, and the Global Ecovillage Network. Thank you to all of them. We share with you the firm commitment to make CIFAL Findhorn a centre of excellence in the field of sustainable organisation and we will continue our successful partnership striving to secure further institutional and technical support for CIFAL Findhorn in the future.”

Richard Lochhead, MSP, Member of the Scottish Parliament, welcomed CIFAL Findhorn as a fantastic new initiative for Moray and Scotland. He feels that Scotland in many ways is leading the way in terms of community energy initiatives which is the theme of the event. “Very few issues on the agenda today are more important than climate change and the environment. This is very important to Moray because we’ve got fishermen who still go to the sea, farmers who still work the land, huge forestry resources, huge renewable potential, and fantastic rivers which supply the distilleries.

Barely a day goes by when climate change or the threat of climate change is not in the news. We’ve seen the Stern Report published last week which shows us all that the cost of taking action now will be nothing compared to not taking action in the future in terms of the impact climate change will have on the planet.

Last week the city of Edinburgh (Scotland’s capital city) came up with its own blueprint for its energy future to help tackle global warming – to have a local energy policy in Edinburgh.

Energy policy is the key to tackling global warming….we as individuals have to have our own energy policies, the people of Scotland, as a nation, need to have their own energy policies, each community needs to have its own energy policy. We can control our own impact on our own ecological footprint and the environment.

The training centre being here in Findhorn is a huge boost for Moray and it helps put Scotland on the map in terms of environmental sustainability. The environment is very important to us here in Scotland and I wish you every success not only in the next 2 or 3 days, but in the months and years ahead as well.”

Alasdair Urquhart, Moray Council Vice-Convenor, introduced training participants to the region by describing Moray as the ‘Riviera of the North.’ “We are delighted to be involved with the CIFAL project. The Council has supported CIFAL as an initiative from the beginning and May East [CIFAL’s Chief Executive Officer] has very successfully managed to draw down financial support from Moray Council which I can assure you is not easy to do in the present economic climate. We were delighted to offer financial support because we have belief in your principles, aims, and objectives, and, in many ways, they tie in with what we’re trying to do in Moray Council. We are trying to develop sustainable energy policies. We are heavily involved in windfarms. We are looking at alternative energy solutions. Thirty percent of our area is forestation so biomass is a serious consideration for the future. Obviously the side effects of the economic development of having Findhorn on the global map under the UN heading, and the potential to draw visitors to the local area, is very important to us.” The Vice-Convenor then congratulated May as the driving force behind the project without whom it would never have gotten off the ground. He cited the initiative as a “classic example of real partnership working and a great model for the future that others should be following.”

John H Ellwood, Assistant Principal The Moray College said he was pleased and privileged to be working with CIFAL and was impressed with May’s commitment to the event. As a co-organiser of the training, he too noted that it is “imperative to work in partnership.”

May East, Chief Executive Officer, CIFAL Findhorn spoke of this as being a historic moment. “We’ve been working with the UN for 14 years, weaving official contributions in two ways: 1) to be present in main conferences of the 1990’s adding our voice and our community experience to the discussions; and 2) by bringing the outcome of those conferences that have mapped the main problems that our generation is facing into agendas (Agenda 21, Agenda Habitat, Millennium Development Goals), and transforming them into educational programmes, international conferences, and round table discussions. During this very rich time, we met one of the UN agencies, Unitar, a small but agile agency. When we received our invitation to work with the UN as an official NGO, we were told, ‘You need to learn how to swim upstream and how to make partnerships because it is through partnerships that you move agendas – you’ll never move agendas by yourself.’ Unitar later invited us to become a formal partner in training local authorities to implement the main agendas – a partnership that has spanned eight years. After having been part of creating 5 of the 12 centres, it became apparent that Findhorn could in fact itself become a CIFAL centre. There was a technical visit and we began to develop partnerships with academia, private sector, and local authorities in Scotland many of whom are here today.”

May sees the purpose of the training as threefold: 1) to provide an overview of available technologies (wind, solar, biomass) and the timeline required to implement them; 2) to co-create a learning environment where we can exchange ideas and expertise; 3) to create new thinking and generate new action for our projects, islands, communities, and towns.

“Postponing action is no longer an option. We are not in haste, but neither can we lose motion in redesigning our lifestyles in order to diminish our footprint for the next seven generations to come.”

Following the introductions, the heart of the exploration started with Gary Campbell, Lecturer Moray College, who provided participants with video footage of the dramatic adverse effects of climate change. He presented global warming as a real and dangerous omen for the future. “We know there’s a problem, we know it’s large-scale and likely to get worse, and we probably know the cause. If we carry on as we are now, we’re well off the scale.” Gary challenged participants with the question, “Will we do something? Do we care enough? Reasons we don’t act include inertia and lack of a clear vision. Science is not exact, therefore, we ignore the evidence. We also run the risk of being overexposed and developing climate fatigue. Can we rely on our politicians? They play a major part, but are not the solution. We have the responsibility. We have to play a major part as individuals and adapt our lifestyles now. We have the technology. We can do it, we should do it – end of story.”

Over the next three days, participants will benefit from a number of presentations, all designed to respond to the climate change challenge with community-based projects.

The Findhorn Ecovillage quite possibly holds a key as a clear demonstration of community-based sustainable living. Alex Walker, Findhorn Wind Park, presented the results of a recent ecofootprint analysis which shows that the ecovillage has the lowest footprint ever done in industrialised society – 35% of the Scottish national average. As Alex pointed out, “This doesn’t mean it actually has the lowest footprint; it simply means that it’s the lowest one that’s been measured. Nevertheless this clearly demonstrates what is possible – that at the community level we can work together to substantially reduce our footprint and live lightly on the planet. According to Alex, “It’s all about relocalisation – reinforcing and recreating local links.

Michael Shaw, Ecovillage Institute, elaborated on the wind and related renewable technologies available to help us move toward UN Millennium Development Goals 7 and 8 which are to 7) ensure environmental sustainability; and 8) develop a global partnership for development.

Even after the first day’s presentations, two things seem crystal clear – partnering is key and the time is now. Congratulations CIFAL Findhorn. We salute the forward momentum of this initiative and support the dedicated efforts of all its partners and programme participants, present and future, who commit to proactively working together for a sustainable future.
Photos Graham Meltzer

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