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Story of EU-China NGO Twinning Program

Wang Yuan is the program manager of Friends of Nature Low Carbon Household program and participant of the 2016 EU-China NGO Twinning Program.

Before joining one of the first Chinese NGOs, Friends of Nature, in 2012 she was a participant of the program she is now leading. The “Low Carbon Household program” aims to spread the concept of a low carbon lifestyle by recruiting households in Beijing to undertake energy saving renovations. From 2011 to 2016, her team collected up to 70 low carbon households. Finishing the first important step by collecting the sample cases, data and experiences providing evidence of result of low carbon and energy conservation renovations.

At the end of 2015, the Low Carbon Household team attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21). Low carbon development is one of the most important discussion topics. During COP21 she organized a side event with French organization 4D with as topic “Our Common Life 21”. During the panel discussion, they released a case study of Chinese Low Carbon Household Community Energy Conservation. The event was reported by many media “Focus Interview” of CCTV and Orient time and Space.

In 2016, she applied for EU-China NGO Twinning Program and was matched with the Portuguese NGO Quercus. “I want to understand the way NGOs in Portugal operated , and see how the Low Carbon Household program could be expanded to other countries”, Wang Yuan said. She was delighted that Quercus works on similar topics as Friends of Nature.


Wang Yuan and her colleagues are in the gate of Quercus office)

Quercus, the biggest environmental NGO in Portugal, was founded in 1985. Based in Lisbon, it has 13,200 members around Portugal. Quercus actively works on energy and climate issues, through raising public awareness, political lobbying, and corporation or school education. They promote energy efficiency and lowering energy consumption by conducting and providing analysis and guidance on the possible measures.

“Both Quercus and Friends of Nature have programs around Low Carbon Households, with very different working methodologies. We support and develop individual cases of energy saving renovations in households, while Quercus is works more on a consulting basis around energy saving renovations in residential and commercial buildings”.
Luis Moreira , the European counterpart of Wang Yuan, started the exchange by coming to  Beijing first. Wang Yuan assisted Luis to start his exchanging work with an introduction to the work and colleagues of Friends of Nature. They both participated in the activities of “Blue Lab” organized by Friends of Nature, and visited among others Shanshui Conservation Center, Institute for Environment and Development, and Greenovation Hub.

They jointly participated in the capacity building workshop with the other participants of the EU-China twinning program. During this 4-day workshop in Changsha they were able to share experiences with other European and Chinese NGOs.

(WangYuan and Luis Moreira are in EU-China Twinning Capacity and Experience Sharing Workshop)
At the end of October, Wang Yuan set out on the European part of the exchange program. This started with the capacity building workshop in Berlin. During this week the participants got inputs from European experts on several social and environmental topics and they received a training on how to give presentations to an intercultural audience.  
“The intercultural presentations training was the most interesting element of the workshop. It was targeted, simple, and clear. This special training was especially helpful to my work. It helped me to better share my perspective and experiences with the European and international audience I encountered during the exchange.”
After the workshop she was given an enthusiastic reception at the start of the exchange in Lisbon.   
“I participated in several different activities held by Quercus, including the Portuguese  NGO symposium, Zero-waste concert, and Lisbon Natural Museum -- Climate Change Salon and Display. What impressed me most was the Zero-waste concert. It is an annual event hosted by QUERCUS Nature Conservancy's solid waste team at a large grocery market in Lisbon. The team uses waste to create instruments and play music, ultimately advocating for a more sustainable lifestyle. The drumming performance by cleaning staff, with trashcans as musical instruments, was stunning.


(Zero Waste Musical concert held by Quercus in Portugal)

Portugal produces 90% of the world's cork products, and is also famous for wine. For me, the recycling of red wine cork is a special project. QUERCUS calls for special recycling bins to recycle the corks into other softwood products. Apart from classified recycling, the zero waste team also helps improving recycled products’ quality and design for wider use. The zero waste association, that Friends of Nature is developing, can get a lot of inspiration from all these different activities”, Wang Yuan said.
The exchange with Quercus also provided a good perspective on funding for Chinese NGOs. In Portugal, NGOs can protect the biodiversity through buying land. Quercus owns more than 10 ecological farms in Portugal. Good ecological farms provide a variety of sources of income through eco-tourism, olive oil production, cork production.
Wang Yuan was supported to attend the 22nd United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP22) In Marrakech during her trip in Europe.


Wang Yuan is in the COP22)
“With the CCAN 2015 national school climate change creative competition awarded postcards, I interviewed different participants of COP22, including students and NASA technical staff. It provided another perspective for me to look at COP22. The Our Life 21 program that my low-carbon family program participated in still continues. This year, family cases from Morocco and Tunisia joined. At the side event of the NGO 4D, I also shared the project development of my low-carbon family at Friends of Nature. “
Asked about the difficulties and challenges that Wang Yuan faced during her exchange she replied, “The official language in Portugal is Portuguese. Although some colleagues in the Quercus office speak English, many activities and events were in Portuguese. Due to limited translation resources, my understanding of these events was limited. Also there is a 6 hours time lag between Europe and China, which made combining the exchange with my own work tiring and stressful.”
After Wang Yuan returned to China, she organized a report back meeting for Friends of Nature of her experiences of the EU-China Twinning Program to share the inspiration and reflection she obtained in Portugal during the exchange.  
Concerning the future plans of the collaboration between both organisations she said, “The EU-China NGO Twinning program provides valuable communication opportunities. Quercus and Friends of Nature are similar and can learn from each other on low-carbon family projects, especially around the Zero-waste concerts and ecological tourism. They are looking how the innovative ways of working can be incorporated in Friends of Nature to give more citizens access to a protected environment.”
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