The Metropolis World Congress is on now in Montreal, and one of the things world municipal officials seem to agree on is that a key driver of greening cities is the support of local citizenry. Governments can implement top-down solutions for climate change, but we as citizens are crucial to implementing bottom-up, grassroots initiatives.

Renewable energy infrastructure, bike paths, composting and green spaces all come more easily when constituents are involved, municipal authorities said.

Alexandros Modiano, vice-mayor of Athens, recalled his realization of how enthusiastic his own citizens were to participate at the local level when they started a civic project to take care of community gardens. The municipality was expecting a turnout of less than 200 people, said Modiano, but 800 signed up. From there, residents worked with the local government on green and health initiatives, like community composting.

Officials in Seoul, South Korea’s capital, found citizens were equally enthusiastic about local initiatives for renewable energy. After experiencing a massive power blackout in 2011 and observing the Fukushima nuclear disaster in neighbouring Japan, Seoul officials started investing in green energy to respond to their citizens’ concerns.

Solar panels on private homes, they explained, became a popular initiative.

However, in developing countries where trust in local governments is low, it’s harder to keep citizens engaged.

Read more about From Montreal to Athens, mayors agree: Citizens make greener cities at The National Observer