Public Participation on Climate Action
If real progress is to be made regarding climate action, communities will have to play a major role in achieving required change through the input of ideas and changes in behaviours. These can include changes in the home, workplace and through consumer choices.
The Government acknowledges the importance of community involvement in such a transition and plans for communities to be central in the response to climate disruption by committing itself to undertaking research in estimating the level of public support. It aims to review and find solutions on barriers to public engagement (DCCAE, 2019). Removing such barriers will allow for the adequate response by the public through informing, encouraging and empowering citizens to act. Community Action takes a number of forms, from simple clean-ups to community energy schemes to adaptation measures (DCCAE, 2019)
In efforts to place communities at the heart of a just transition to a low carbon economy, the government has rolled out a number of initiatives detailed here and here. Strategies and initiatives that specifically relate to public outreach objectives include:
Local Citizen Engagement
Local Authorities can now connect with community groups around the country through the Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) or the recently established Public Participation Networks (PPNs). Local Authorities can use the Public Participation Networks as a way to source expertise from the community in their area. Community groups and individuals who wish to volunteer can register to join the PPN in their local authority area. This process allows citizens more input in local Government decisions that affect their local areas and communities (DCCAE, 2019).
The Citizens' Assembly
In 2017 the Citizens Assembly, invited members of the public, representative groups and citizen organisations to engage in five issues, of which climate change was the third. The topic of climate change was considered over a two weekend period, where citizens were presented with materials to inform themselves on the matter. 13 Recommendations on this topic resulted from submissions made by the public, which were significantly more radical than anticipated. Some of these recommendations included that climate change should be at the centre of policy-making in Ireland and that citizens would be willing to pay higher taxes on carbon intensive activities.
Recommendations from the Citizens' Assembly identified a clear roadmap for climate action in Ireland (DCCAE, 2019). These recommendations were followed up by the Oireachtas report which was created directly in response to the Citizens Assembly on Climate Change. This report focuses on the identification of policy tools to allow for progress on the Assemblies 13 recommendations on climate change. The National Climate Action Plan has adopted many recommendations from the Oireachtas report including those of the Citizens Assembly to ensure that they are operationalised and supported. The Citizens Assembly process highlights great potential for the development of the National Dialogue on Climate Action as a new model to further engage citizens on climate change deliberation and action.
The National Dialogue on Climate Action
The National Dialogue on Climate Action (NDCA) is a government led initiative through the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment ( DCCAE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Its primary function is to engage citizens with the Government and relevant agents, into collaborative action through a forum based platform where a range of climate related issues are covered.
Through this initiative, a number of meetings and workshops have allowed members of the public to identify climate issues affecting their local areas. Working groups and facilitators have then collaborated to identify solutions based on individual and community engagement, to tackle these issues at a local level. This approach has been based on the utilisation of existing networks and is essential for managing further contentious challenges along the way in ensuring a just transition (DCCAE, 2019). For more information on the NDCA please click here.
A new and improved model of engagement that draws inspiration from the Citizens' Assembly, the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee and the National Dialogue, will become the place for engaging more citizens and building community groups in the future
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