The Engineers Ireland, an engineering professional body, has released a report titled The State of Ireland 2020 which highlights the importance of community engagement at the centre of climate action projects.
The report strongly recommends the establishment of early engagement with communities, particularly in the designing and planning phases of climate action projects. Allowing communities to play an active role in shaping climate action plans have significant societal benefits; it empowers citizens to take actions within their communities, builds public trust, establishes community benefit fund, generates local jobs, and contributes to Local Authority rates.
According to the report, “government and other political actors should help to build public support through citizen engagement, community leadership and facilitating a just transition. Securing societal and political support is key for major infrastructure projects that are designed to drive the transition to a low carbon economy.”
Previous experience working on high profile infrastructure projects in energy, water, waste and transport shows that placing community engagement as low priority had serious, detrimental effects to the success of the project. In the report, Morrissey states:
“Not involving communities in project development can have serious long-term negative impacts on communities’ economic environmental and social outcomes. Establishing dialogue and building strong and genuine partnerships with local communities and other stakeholders is now recognised as a vitally important part of any project. From large-scale resource projects and transport infrastructure to the development of local community facilities, stakeholders matter!”
Therefore, the importance of community engagement must be recognised as an essential part of the process to building Ireland’s energy transition and not merely a secondary activity. Local communities should be supported and empowered to take action in the decarbonisation of their communities. The report claims that changing consumer behaviour through public education and energising communities through collective actions facilitates smoother transition to a lower carbon future.
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