EcoBUDGET was developed in 1996 in Germany and was born out of a simple, but revolutionary idea – what if local governments managed their natural resources with the same level of care as their monetary resources?
Four German local authorities, Dresden, Nordhausen, Bielefeld and Heidelberg pioneered the system (then named ökoBUDGET) in close cooperation with ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. The partners developed the innovative concept into a workable tool.
The project came to an end in 2000, but its success encouraged the German city of Kaiserlautern to implement and further develop the instrument.
In 2003 ecoBUDGET was expanded across Europe. Six cities from around the continent took part – Växjö (Sweden), Amaroussion (Greece), Bologna (Italy), Ferrara (Italy), Kalithea (Greece) and Lewes (United Kingdom). The cities were assisted and coached by past users Heidelberg and Dresden. Ending in 2004, the project was once again considered a resounding success.
2005 saw the tool going truly global with the launch of ecoBUDGET Asia. The local governments of Guntur, India and Bohol, Philippines were the first to implement the budget, with help from European partners Bologna and Växjö. Developing countries have proven particularly receptive to ecoBUDGET, as the tool caters well to the challenges they face. In these cities it is necessary that resources such as potable water are tracked and conserved precisely, and ecoBUDGET allows local governments to do so efficiently.
Today ecoBUDGET has been integrated into the DReAMS (Development of Resources and Access to Municipal Services) project. Started in January 2010 under the auspices of the EuropeAid Programme of the European Union, DReAMS aims to link the sustainable use of natural resources with poverty alleviation.
The project gives cities the tools, including ecoBUDGET, to improve living standards and reduce environmental degradation. DReAMS collaborates with local governments, local communities and other actors to raise awareness, influence policy making and strengthen the visibility of poverty and environment into local planning and programmes.
Through applying the principles and practices of financial budgeting, ecoBUDGET empowers local governments to manage natural resources as economically as money.
The simple framework enables authorities to chart their progress in achieving local, national and international sustainability targets and through this, refine the direction of local environmental policies. Today one of the requirements of ecoBUDGET is that the quantative long-term and annual targets of the tool must be ratified by the city council, adding political legitimacy to the tool.
EcoBUDGET‘s overall goal is to help achieve global sustainability, through promoting sustainability at the local level. An important benefit to local governments is that the instrument allows for the quantifying of gains and losses made in terms of natural resources, and in this way allows local governments to present their achievements to their community.