If only government would get out of the way!!!

That is the message I took away from the Energy Symposium in Cong last week. “If only government would get out of the way!!!” The sentiment was that we are all busy doing nothing on climate change while waiting for leadership from government that’s just not coming. There were representatives from a vast array of businesses and institutions in Ireland from Pfizer, Ericsson, Intel, Veolia, Bord Gais Energy, Boston Scientific, Siemens, lots of colleges, engineers, consultants, solicitors, manufacturing experts, then all the acronyms I’m not going to expand on – the ESB, SEAI, NSAI, IWEA, EPA,the IDA and so on. The place had an entrepreneurial buzz levelled by a state grounding. Following last weeks blog post the Environmental Pillar paid expenses for me to attend.

We had an excellent presentation from Norman Crowley of Crowley Carbon kicking off on Thursday evening. He really let the audience have it and his sense of urgency fitted our global temperature trajectory.

Friday was not like most energy events business and state agencies attend. It was hosted world cafe style in venues around the village of Cong in Mayo. A group of 8 or so people at a table in each venue. It made for interesting conversations over our coffees and I’m sorry we were limited to 3 sessions! It was a long, tiring day and what I had to offer was well received. I felt like I was leaving unfinished business.

Many companies engage in energy saving measures, energy generation projects, retrofit and extensions without ever knowing the benefits of working with the local community. They can collaborate to make a community project out of it with the SEAI Sustainable Energy Communities initiative. It hadn’t occurred to most that collaborating on climate action with their host community would be a good idea.

I explained how we have had communities trying to get projects off the ground for years coming up against barriers. That we have local champions who get burnt out fighting the bureaucracy. All working voluntary in a sea of vagueness without political leadership.  As the event drew to a close I drafted a list of ideas for companies and institutions to consider. If you have anything to add let me know and I will include it.

Here are some practical  soft supports most companies could offer if they don’t  have financial support to give it to compliment funding:

  • Facilitate the local climate action and energy transition conversation in your area
  • Provide a venue for existing actors or host an open meeting to find catalysts
  • Help community climate action groups with skills such as communications, marketing, admin, social media, accounts etc
  •  Help with accessing funding – the bureaucratic paperwork can be a lot for community groups to handle
  • Support the community message to local and national government
  • Be an ally to your local climate activists – they need all the friends they can get!

I am also going to share my post of July 2014 from the launch of the National and Economic Social Council NESC report on Wind Energy. I spoke at the launch and suggested we host national meetings to be replicated at local level. If we can get all the local players together to act on climate change we would be achieving a lot. I want to get the following in a room and brainstorm:

  • GAA – Gaelic Athletic Association and other sporting bodies
  • Tidy Towns
  • ICA – Irish Country Woman’s Association
  • IFA – Irish Farmers Association
  • Youth groups- Foroige, Comhairle Na nÓg, Green Schools, Scouts
  • Rural Link
  • Energy agencies
  • Transition groups
  • Community fora
  • Religious institutions
  • Credit unions
  • State agencies, NGOs, The Wheel and institutional state companies could also be involved – Seai – Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland, IEN – Irish Environmental Network member group branches, Bord Na Mona, Coillte etc. other possibilities IWFA – Irish Wind Farmers Association, IRBEA- Irish bio energy association, farm forestry groups.

Maybe business or academia can make it happen because despite my repeating it to numerous receptive audiences nobody has taken the lead to convene it and I simply don’t have the resources to do so.

I am really glad I took the opportunity to attend. How else would the collaboration message have been raised? People are generally too busy to think of it. My submission to the event is available here but it is only a snapshot of the complete proposal. My attendance at the symposium was only made possible because the Environmental Pillar paid my expenses.

I repeat my suggestion that tax payers money goes into more collaborative events like this instead of the back door policy talking shops the Seai and other state bodies currently fund.

Theresa O’Donohoe

October 15th 2016


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