National Mitigation Plan – Transition Submission 2017

In conjunction with the national awareness campaign, TINI call for facilitated conversations in every town so that all considerations for national mitigation can be explored and contribute to a shared vision. Climate change and our over dependence on imported energy must be presented and discussed so that the challenges are understood and the solutions can be visualised in every sector as outline in the draft NMP. This is not beyond the capacity of the citizens of Ireland.”

 

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Transition Ireland and Northern Ireland – Submission 

National Mitigation Plan – April 2017

  • Introduction
  • Observations
  • Raise awareness
  • Create a Shared Vision
  • Design Pathways for that Vision 
  • Introduction

Transition Ireland and Northern Ireland, as an organisation whose existence is to catalyse climate change mitigation and adaptation measures over the past decade, welcome the National Mitigation Plan.

During the period of 2013-2015 TINI coordinated the Peoples Energy Charter which called for comprehensive public participation in Irelands National Energy Transition Plan. This formed the basis of collaboration, submissions and engagement in the process of preparing the white paper on energy – Irelands Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future.

The global Transition movement evolved in Kinsale, Co Cork in 2006. At it’s core is the

Energy Descent Action Plan which Kinsale Town council adopted. Summary of Kinsale EDAP is here. This is effectively a mitigation and adaptation plan in one which has now been replicated by transition initiatives throughout the world. TINI, Transition Ireland and Northern Ireland is the national hub for Transition in Ireland and is affiliated to the international Transition Network.

Transition has evolved to build community resilience to better prepare our communities for the inevitable environmental, societal, political and economic adjustments that climate change is causing and will continue to cause. The aim of any transition initiative is to foster and strengthen itʼs communityʼs resilience in light of these challenges.

Transition is a community driven, collaborative plan for energy transition. A prime example is Transition Kerry who in 2014 commissioned an action plan for Kerry to move to 100% renewable energy by 2030. Summary of the plan is here.

The remainder of this submission outlines basic steps to an inclusive plan for Ireland’s National Mitigation:

  • Page 3 – Observations
  • Page 4 – Raise awareness
  • Page 5 – Create a shared vision
  • Page 6 – Design pathways for that vision

Observations

TINI is extremely disappointed with the consideration citizens have been shown in this draft NMP and this supposed “public consultation”.

This is taken from the departments web page for the NMP:

“The Department now invites submissions in relation to the draft National Mitigation Plan. This public consultation will help inform its further development before a final plan is submitted to Government in June 2017. The draft plan highlights several key questions for stakeholders to consider in terms of how best Ireland should position itself in taking this first step in achieving the national transition objective by 2050. Further details are available in our press release 15 March 2017.”

TINI would like to know what steps the department have taken to ensure there was comprehensive public participation in this consultation for a NMP. What was done to facilitate public participation in the preparation of this plan? How does it comply with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) convention on access to information, public participation in decision making and access to justice in environmental matters, also known as the Aarhus convention. What steps were taken to ensure the publics right to information and participation on decisions affecting ones environment?

We are invoking our rights protected by the Aarhus convention and we are insisting on comprehensive public participation in designing the national mitigation plan and all plans affecting our environment. It is quite clear that the public must be facilitated to be involved in shaping policy in Ireland including the NMP. Challenges to the NREAP – National Renewable Energy Action Plan and wind projects across the country have displayed what happens when a plan is made without sufficient public participation. Similarly all of the groups around the country who have emerged in response to the imposition of individual energy plans, policies or projects. The marine institute in Galway recently experienced difficulties while seeking to instal a test bed in Galway Bay due to the fact that there had not been adequate public participation.

National energy policy will impact every single person in the country. Therefore it is vital that every single person, who wishes to, has a say in it. Everyone is entitled to the information and has the right to participate meaningfully in the process. Government must appreciate and facilitate those basic rights. It is better to plan from the start with comprehensive public participation than fight the people who were excluded at the planning stage. This NMP is wide open to Aarhus challenges as it’s existence has been very muted. Was there any real effort to engage local authorities so that rural communities would be represented?

During the white paper process there were quite a number of submissions. How come there was no attempt made by the department to inform those who made submissions about this NMP process? How come most “consultations” since the white paper have not been brought to the attention of all those who made submissions to the white paper? Surely they have proven their commitment to Irelands energy future and hiding energy consultations with the CER is not very participatory or transparent.

Raise awareness

Transition in Ireland is calling for a National Mitigation Plan along the lines of an energy descent action plan. There are definite intentional steps that can be taken in this process which have been used within the transition movement for over 10 years. These steps need to be taken at many different levels of society – locally, regionally and nationally bringing together all sectors to create one shared vision for Irelands carbon neutral future.

It is paramount that everybody has an understanding of the basic factors underpinning our national mitigation plan: climate change and energy security for all. There must be informed debates, discussions and conversation about all considerations for this NMP. This has definitely been missing during this “consultation”.

Awareness about climate change is not very clear cut. There has been no national leadership on the issue. It is raised every now and then but it does not get the level of attention it deserves. For example we have national campaigns on smoking and driving yet these issues fade into insignificance if we do not mitigate climate change. Awareness of climate change and the need for climate action is a definite action government is responsible for and so far they have failed in this regard.

The Aarhus convention states that we all have a right to information relevant to our environment. The Irish government needs to play an active role in providing impartial, factual information on all aspects of energy plans, policies and projects to it’s citizens at the preplanning stage. The public are not yet prepared to participate in this current call for input as they do not have sufficient information upon which to base their participation.

This consultation process itself does nothing to “empower” citizens. It is not sufficient to publish a draft NMP setting out such vast amounts of information and expect people to understand it all and engage to the level that they will be happy with the outcome. A submission to national plans may come undone when plans manifest as real time proposals or projects locally – which is what has happened recently. Many people blindly supported wind energy and would probably have stated so in submissions. However this does not necessarily endorse the establishment of industrial scale wind farms in the country. Likewise, many people may agree to nuclear energy until it is proposed in their locality.

Transition is calling for a national campaign for climate action to accompany the NMP.

Create a shared vision

Having raised awareness of the need for change, the fact that we must transition, it is important to include everyone, who is willing, in deciding how that change will happen. With the ratification of the Aarhus convention Ireland needs to take public participation seriously and put systems in place that support it’s implementation.

Once informed the public will be better prepared to participate. Realistically writing a national mitigation plan is a waste of time and resources unless it is based on comprehensive public participation. There must be facilitated conversations discussing an energy vision for the community, the region and the nation. This vision must be given time to evolve and the whole process may take some months. This must originate at community scale, feeding into local authority, regional and national plans. No white paper, or national plan can be complete without first incorporating the local vision.

The Climate Dialogue which subsumes the National Energy Forum, a participation platform that TINI fought hard to have included, is mentioned. This is probably the nearest government has come to aspiring to a shared vision. However it appears to be restricted by cost effectiveness. It also mentions “a system of community engagement”. Surely that should be done before further consultations including this NMP? What’s the point in a community engagement process when the policy and plans are already finalised by government? By not incorporating comprehensive public participation in this plan and others the government are effectively inviting engagement in the form of rejection when they have compiled the plans without ensuring the publics rights are in place.

In conjunction with the national awareness campaign, TINI call for facilitated conversations in every town so that all considerations for national mitigation can be explored and contribute to a shared vision. Climate change and our over dependence on imported energy must be presented and discussed so that the challenges are understood and the solutions can be visualised in every sector as outline in the draft NMP. This is not beyond the capacity of the citizens of Ireland.

Design Pathways for that Vision

Once a vision has been created a timeline of targets must be agreed. Nationally this will be in line with our European and National targets. However locally the targets will probably be higher as communities engage with the shared vision for a more sustainable economy and community. This is certainly the case with community led transition initiatives.

Transition Galway have worked with the public to design a vision and pathway for a sustainable Galway. It is available in a series of videos and in report form on their website here.

As have Transition Kerry. They also have sectoral visions and pathways. Their website is here with further details.

The Abbeyleix Sustainable Communities Plan addressed energy in many sectors such as transport, waste and food systems. Abbeyleix went on to win a Livcom award – The International Awards for Liveable Communities.

Over the past 10 years many obstacles have been identified by communities already engaging with the transition process in Ireland. Friends of the Earth Ireland included some of them in their report on community energy. Addressing barriers and obstacles while taking steps to facilitate the wishes of the participating public will ensure an easier transition process.

Transition Ireland and Northern Ireland are willing to discuss methodologies and existing practices that will assist in the national  mitigation and transition process. This has been achieved time and time again by transition initiatives both in Ireland and beyond.

Theresa O’Donohoe – 26th April 2017


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