Non Consultation is Key

Congratulations yet again to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment on another failure to adequately include the public in our national climate plans. The department that has responsibility for the Aarhus convention as well as most consultations to do with climate change and the environment. You would think they would get it right!

They gave just 15 working days for the public to have its say in Irelands long-term strategy for greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Read all about the consultation here. Read about how An Taisce Climate Committee requested that the department ensure adequate public participation back in February 2019:

“An Taisce notes the requirement under the EU Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union, which entered into force in December 2018, for all member states to prepare and submit to the Commission by 1 January 2020 and every 10 years thereafter their long-term low emission strategies with a 50 year perspective. We believe the preparation of these strategies represents a critical component of effective societal engagement with the existential challenge of climate change, especially, but not exclusively with respect to the demands of intergenerational justice.

Taking account of the provisions of Directive 2001/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the UNECE Aarhus Convention, we assume that the Department is making due provision for effective public participation in the development of this critical long-term strategy.

Accordingly we would like to request an early opportunity to meet with the DCCAE team responsible for public participation in the preparation of the LTS, in order both to understand the envisaged processes, and to offer any support or insight from the NGO perspective that may assist with this.

Given the relatively short period allowed for the LTS to be prepared, we would appreciate if you could offer the earliest possible meeting date(s).”

The Peoples Energy Charter spent 3 years seeking Comprehensive Public Participation in the National Energy Transition Plan. An account of that work is here. Eventually the National Energy Forum was announced with the national white paper on energy – Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future. The minister at the time had great plans to include the public in our transition to a low carbon country.

Nothing fundamental has changed within the department. Ministers come and go but the mindset within the department never changes. The new government decided the national energy forum would become the climate dialogue. That seems to have vanished into thin air. 

Ireland has a bad name internationally for our lack of public participation. Our NREAP National Renewable Energy Action Plan was prepared in 2010 with minimum input from some interested “stakeholders”. Practically no public participation. That was challenged in Europe and the EU was deemed lacking under the Aarhus Convention. Draft findings 29 April 2012 – Findings and recommendations with regard to communication ACCC/C/2010/54 concerning compliance by the European Union:

“The Committee pursuant to paragraph 36 (b) of the annex to decision I/7 and noting the agreement of the Party concerned that the Committee take the measures requested in paragraph 37 (b) of the annex to decision I/7, recommends that the Party concerned adopt a proper legislative framework for implementing article 7 of the Convention with respect to the adoption of NREAPs. This would entail that the Party concerned ensure that the arrangements for public participation in a Member State are transparent and fair and that within those arrangements the necessary information is provided to the public. In addition, such a legislative framework must ensure that the requirements of article 6, paragraphs 3, 4 and 8, of the Convention are met, including reasonable time-frames, allowing for sufficient time for informing the public and for the public to prepare and participate effectively, allowing for early public participation when all options are open, and ensuring that due account is taken of the outcome of the public participation. Moreover, the Party concerned must adapt the manner in which it evaluates NREAPs, accordingly.”

This long term strategy is where a functioning Climate Dialogue would have been the perfect opportunity to feed into this consultation. It could foster collaboration and get people mobilised in a proactive manner. The Peoples Energy Charter was effectively 3 years of time wasting because the new minister hasn’t a clue about how these commitments were arrived at and the civil servants are happy that the government changes at least once every 5 years so they don’t have to.

Back in 2013 I made a submission  flagging the need for greater public participation to the Low Carbon Roadmap on behalf of LEAF Laois Environmental Action Forum:

To whom it concerns my observations are that better community involvement needs to be achieved. Any future plans to transition to a low carbon country must be handled better than past and current process.

Given the timing of this consultation we could not enter a substantial submission. We would like to be included in future relevant communications.

I have fought voluntarily for comprehensive public participation in our national energy transition plan for over 7 years now. Nationally I’ve been involved with the Open Government Partnership, a roadshow of workshops on the Aarhus Convention, the taskforce on public participation and locally establishing Clare PPN Public Participation Network. Challenging the governments impenetrable system is energy and time consuming and after the white paper consultation, when they went back to their non consultation mode as soon as it was over, there was nobody with the time or energy to continue the fight. If you don’t like my language be assured it is a fight! Katie Taylor wouldn’t even win. I used be a civil servant, I know the inside.

Extinction Rebellion and Fridays For Future are the only hope I have left because I have tried to get the system to change, really tried but it is run by people who seem to abhor public participation and are governed by ministers who are only getting to grips with things as they are briefed before they move on.

Update – this consultation was extended by a couple of weeks. Closing date for submissions is December 31st. Merry Christmas!

Theresa O’Donohoe

December 2019


3 thoughts on “Non Consultation is Key

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