Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Action and the Environment, Darren O Rourke TD, has pointed to the enormous unfulfilled potential of Public Participation Networks (PPNs) to mobilise community engagement and action, and called on the government to fully recognise the importance of communities as dynamic and powerful catalysts for climate action.
Teachta O’Rourke made these comments in response to paper submitted to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action by the PPNs entitled, “Critical Agents for Mobilisation of Community Climate Action”.
The Meath East TD said:
“Genuine, bottom-up approaches are critical to achieve our climate targets. PPNs are an exemplary example of such approaches. Spanning 31 local authorities, they have significant community reach with over 18,000 group members, members which involve many multiples of thousands of active participants.
“Unlike the approach of government on climate action to date which has been focused at the national level and on the actions of individuals, PPNs focus on collective action mobilisation at the community level, which has proven to be of huge benefit to achieve climate goals.
“This is because communities have expertise and knowledge that official policy makers often don’t, particularly about their locale and the (sometimes unforeseen) implication of structural or policy changes.
“Top-down decision making often means local people and organisations often feel left out of critical decision-making processes in climate action, such as the design or adaptation of programmes or plans.
“This means they are less effective at delivering their intended goals, with local people feeling disenfranchised and left behind. Through PPNs however, local communities can be empowered to be the authors of change, rather than passive recipients of policy changes.
“These types of participatory models have not only proven to be more democratic and inclusive, but they have also proven to be more successful. This is borne out by the research which says that community based collective action on climate holds the key to broader social change.
“PPNs face significant and wide-ranging barriers, however. The recently released report detailed results of a survey of PPNs and their member groups.
“Their response highlighted the need for much more active support from the government, including the need for information, as well as a structure for skills, knowledge and experience sharing.
“They also pointed to training and tailored support deficits, as well as the need to feedback community experience of policy and programmes. The report also pointed to inadequate resourcing of PPNs and as we a result, a lack of capacity.
“Therefore, we are calling on government to ensure PPNs are adequately resourced to carry out their goals. Furthermore, government establish a clear mechanism for PPNs to engage with policy makers and agencies rolling out climate change programmes, to ensure they are fit for purpose and operating as intended.
“Sinn Féin has always prioritised the empowerment of communities in climate action. We have continuously highlighted just how essential it is that grass roots groups and local communities can co-produce climate policies and programmes.
“We know that successful local examples of climate action are powerful mobilisers, often yielding multiplier effects.
“With effective participation and citizen engagement that empowers people from the bottom up, we can deliver a just transition. PPNs are one vehicle through which this can be achieved.”