Local authorities are tasked with identifying and developing plans for a Decarbonising Zone (DZ) as part of the preparation and making of Local Authority Climate Action Plans during 2023. Stakeholder engagement is an essential component towards shaping effective actions for the DZ area as well as building consensus and ownership for their longer-term implementation. Local authorities were encouraged to commence engagement with stakeholders at the earliest stage possible.
Maynooth was chosen by Kildare County Council (KCC) as their Decarbonising Zone. Maynooth has a population of 17,259 (with an approximate Maynooth University term-time additional population of 18,500) and is one of the fastest growing towns in the country with projections for significant further population growth in the future. Maynooth was chosen as the DZ within County Kildare for several reasons including:
- There is an existing Active Travel Plan for cycling and walking in place.
- Potential for green measures in public development to maintain and enhance the open space.
- Potential to develop green infrastructure under the Maynooth Outer Orbital Route
- The opportunity to include these measures in the Local Area Plan which is being drafted in tandem with the LA CAP.
- The presence of Maynooth University within the DZ area which includes the climate research centre ICARUS.
- The future potential development of enhanced rail service through the DART + West project.
In short, Maynooth has several advantages that makes the town ideal as a DZ to act as a test bed in the County to assess the viability, and for wide roll out, of measures to other towns in the County and Country.
Towards initiating engagement with stakeholders within the Maynooth DZ area Kildare County Council held three workshops during the month of May. The first workshop was with farmers within the DZ area. The second workshop focused on businesses operating within the DZ, and the third workshop was aimed at citizens within the DZ. For all three workshops, KCC looked for novel ways to enhance the engagement and collaboration of participants.
At all three workshops the KCC Climate Team, alongside consultants brought in to develop the DZ baseline emissions inventory (BEI), spoke about the overarching goals and objectives for the DZ and the findings of the BEI. After providing the relevant groups with this information questions were invited in an open forum followed by a workshop to explore potential options and opportunities as well as gain insights towards shaping effective actions for the DZ component of the LA CAP
For the workshop with the farmers, a cartoonist was brought in, who attentively listened in to the different conversations being had within the groups and subsequently created cartoon ideas and imagery showing visually what the groups were communicating back. The presentation of this imagery and ideas led to a further discussion around the different topics and refinement of the issues, insights, and potential actions to undertake.
For the workshop with businesses, a Professor from the Business School in Maynooth University was brought in, as well as a representative from the Local Enterprise Office, to talk with the business representatives about becoming more sustainable and about the supports available to them to reduce their emissions towards achieving net-zero. Key insights and knowledge were shared among those in attendance with future potential collaboration opportunities towards achieving decarbonising targets explored.
For the workshop with the public, a local comedian was asked to perform a ten-minute set at the start of the event. The Comedian, as part of their set, covered the topic of climate change helping to open-up all issues and concerns attendees may have with the subject matter. As a result of the comedian’s set, the workshop operated in good spirit and with a high level of engagement from participants. Valuable insights were gathered particularly in relation to transport options and how the town could look in 2030 and in 2050 through achieving decarbonising targets.
One of the main things the Climate Action Team in Kildare County Council has done to date towards developing an effective implementation plan for their DZ is to develop partnerships with organisations with similar objectives and / or can be important stakeholders in delivering on emission targets to 2050. They worked with An Taisce with Maynooth acting as a pilot location for An Taisce’s Low Carbon Community Plan. They are collaborating with Teagasc to help farmers implement effective projects to reduce their emissions through their Signpost Decarbonising Farm Plan. The Team is working closely with Elected Members in the Municipal District as well as the Sustainable Energy Community in Maynooth to engage all citizens in the DZ in the development of the DZ Implementation Plan. They are also working closely with Maynooth University, across several University departments to help engage key stakeholders and guide efforts towards effective implementation. Two examples of this collaboration include:
- Working with the Innovation Value Institute using design thinking principles and Fun Theory to guide the development of behaviour change and implementation initiatives.
- Working with Postgraduate Programme Course Directors and postgraduate students to develop and conduct surveys with residents and businesses in the Maynooth DZ area to gather additional insights and information to help shape future efforts.
Following the workshops and the partnerships that developed out of different engagements the Team aimed to bring their plans for the DZ to a wider audience. Using an existing event held in Maynooth each year in June ‘Picnic in the Park’, the Team collaborated with Maynooth Community Council to incorporate engagement activities related to the DZ into the event. Their aim was to bring a wide range of stakeholders together to present them with the plans for the DZ, the insights and input already received and to gather further insight and knowledge from attendees to shape actions for the LA CAP.
The Picnic in the Park event was held in Harbour Field in Maynooth on the 18th of June on a rain threatened afternoon from 2-5pm. Despite the threat of rain, over 2,000 people attended the outdoor event with a range of actives and items on offer:
- Local food businesses provided a range of food offerings for attendees.
- A local brass band played music during the day.
- A local car dealership displayed some electric vehicles alongside Maynooth University who displayed sustainable maintenance vehicles they use on campus, for people to view and check out.
- A cartoonist guided children and young adults through drawing out nature related climate action and pollinator protection ideas.
- A biodiversity PhD student from Maynooth University, working on a project with KCC spoke to attendees about the range of biodiversity measures that could be undertaken within the DZ as well as how citizens could undertake fit counts.
- A representative from the Native Irish Honeybee Society (NIHBS) provided information on protecting pollinators.
- In collaboration with Future Tapestries, virtual reality headsets were provided to attendees presenting the story of wool and where we can go with wool in the future as part of decarbonising and sustainability plans.
- Comedians did a set for attendees related to climate change and climate action.
- Staff members from the Kildare Sports Partnership organised sports games for kids including races.
- An energy expert representing KCC provided information to attendees on the type of energy and emission reduction projects individuals and the community could take within the DZ.
- A person from the Climate Action and Economic Infrastructure Unit within the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment provided information on and spoke about the Climate Toolkit 4 Business that aims to help businesses reduce their emissions.
- A representative from Teagasc provided information of the Signpost programme, a collaboration with Bord Bia towards helping farmers to reduce their emissions.
- A representative from the Sustainable Travel Team in KCC provided information on decarbonising travel and sustainable living.
- A representative from An Taisce provided a Carbon Calculator for attendees to try out and to see what actions could be taken within the DZ. The Carbon Calculator was developed by Maynooth University, An Taisce, and Kildare County Council.
- A range of Rickshaws were provided for people to try out different active travel modes.
- An Artist Chair Up-Cycle Workshop and Bike Repair Workshop were run for attendees.
- A representative of the Maynooth Sustainable Energy Community provided information on the SECs plans as well as how the SEC will support the DZ plans within the LA CAP.
- An Garda Siochana through their community programme, provided access to some of their vehicles and spoke with people in the community.
- A representative from Zero Waste Maynooth operated a pop-up clothes swap shop showing attendees how they can be more sustainable with the clothes in terms of purchasing choices and re-use.
The success of the Picnic in the Park event would not have been possible without the help and support of volunteers from Maynooth Community Council, KCC staff across several departments and other organisations who provided support and their own resources to make the event as engaging and as informative as possible.
Benefits of Solution
Through implementing an extensive stakeholder engagement plan early in the process, KCC engaged with and involved a significant number of people, businesses, and community groups in the development of energy and emission reduction objectives and actions within the Maynooth Decarbonising Zone. This level of engagement has helped to ensure that the people of Maynooth have had significant input into the DZ Plan and it is hoped this will result in a high level of engagement and ownership of the actions as they are implemented.
Throughout the process, KCC has continued to create and build relationships with other organisations including those located in Maynooth as well as organisations who have common aims and objectives. The level of collaboration already in place is highlighted in the range of activities and speakers at the Picnic in the Park event. KCC aims to continue to build on these collaborations as they guide the implementation of actions towards achieving net-zero emissions within the Maynooth Decarbonising Zone as well as towards achieving similar results in other areas within County Kildare.