Translating the urgency for climate action into local communities is not always straightforward. This article by Kildare County Council’s Senior Executive Officer, Alan Dunney, highlights how a partnership between Irish local authorities and Ireland’s largest sporting organisation has been driving forward a programme of climate action activities across every town and village in Ireland.
In January 2020, following consultations between the Local Authority Climate Action Steering Group, the Climate Action Regional Offices (a shared service of Irish Local Government) and senior management in the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), a Service Level Agreement was agreed and signed between the County & City Management Association (CCMA) and the GAA to guide a partnership approach to driving a programme of climate action activities across every town and village in Ireland.
The partnership between the CCMA and the GAA brought together the administrative and volunteer networks of the GAA, Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA) and Camogie Association and a local government network of four Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs), as well as officials working on the ground in each of the 31 local authorities throughout the country.
This partnership has manifested itself in the GAA Green Club Programme and commits both parties to working together to promote sustainability awareness and action in the operations and activities of Gaelic games clubs and communities. Through the combined local authority and Gaelic Games networks, the Green Club Working Group was expanded to include various other state and semi-state organisations (on an all-island basis) such as Irish Water, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, the National Biodiversity Data Centre, Local Authorities Water Programme and others as detailed below. What has emerged is a club-based framework of actions and activities around the themes of Energy, Waste, Water, Biodiversity and Travel & Transport.
The programme objectives are:
- To raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals in our role as SDG Champions and, through collaboration with expert partners, to provide leadership and build local capacity, thus equipping the GAA membership to influence the wider community to make their contribution towards the achievement of the SDGs.
- To create a formal network for the sharing of experience and best practice between units of the Gaelic games family.
- To develop and disseminate a Green Club Toolkit of practical club-led action across the areas of Energy, Waste, Water, Biodiversity, and Travel & Transport.
- To manage and grow, on a phased basis, a structured Green Club programme that will support, track, and monitor the actions and engagement of participating clubs.
- To develop and disseminate national GAA Green Guidance, with a focus on the priority areas of sustainable pitch management, sustainable procurement, and club development plans.
- To act as an enabler and driver of sustainable development for youth, in particular through the GAA’s Future Leader’s Transition Year programme (in partnership with PDST) and the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative, both of which will include Climate Action and SDG modules within their curriculum.
- For the GAA to become a European leader in sustainability for sports and community-based organisations.
Following much preparatory work and development of “tool-kits” to guide the programme, it was officially launched in December 2020, with an online event including guest addresses from Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Mr Eamon Ryan TD, and Mr Ciaran Hayes, Chair of the Local Authority Climate Action Steering Group. The launch also featured club and player case studies and interviews.
Phase 1 began in January 2021 and saw the Green Club Steering Group working closely with approx. 45 clubs from across the island, structured across seven sub-groups: the five thematic sub-groups of Energy, Waste, Water, Biodiversity and Transport and two Ulster GAA-led sub-groups, including a cross-border cooperative project in the North-West, which work across all five areas of the Programme.
Phase 2 of the programme is now underway and GAA clubs from all over Ireland are working with the various expert partners and groups to drive sustainability across their own club grounds and communities. Furthermore, resources and toolkits are available to all clubs via the GAA website.
|GAA Green Club experts partners|
|Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI)||Energy||Provision of energy-saving guidance, resources and advice and events tailored for Gaelic Games clubs and communities. Direct club mentorships through SEC mentor programme.|
|Regional Waste Management Offices||Waste||Have partnered with Irish Water on an initiative for single-use plastic elimination in GAA clubs.|
|National Biodiversity Data Centre||Biodiversity||Have developed Pollinator Guidance for Sports Club. Through the Green Club programme, the GAA has become an official supporter of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan|
|Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO)||Water, Biodiversity||Working closely with club volunteers and Irish Water to develop a suite of club-based water quality and management resources as part of GAA Green Club Toolkit.|
|Irish Water||Water||Working closely with club volunteers and LAWPro to develop a suite of club-based water quality and management resources as part of GAA Green Club Toolkit.|
|National Transport Authority (NTA)||Transport||Developing active travel resources and advice for GAA clubs and communities, based on learnings from the NTA Smarter Travel programmes.|
|Ulster GAA partners and supporters|
|Relationships developed with initial support and guidance from Sustainable NI|
|Keep NI Beautiful||Biodiversity, Waste||Direct support to clubs through webinars, one-to-one guidance, Plastic Promise programme, Adopt-a-Spot Litter Pick kits, ‘LiveHereLoveHere’ Small Grant Scheme, biodiversity mentorship.|
|RSBP NI||Biodiversity||Development of Green Club 10-point Biodiversity Action Plan for GAA clubs and communities.|
|NI Water||Water||Engaging in site visits for audit support and guidance on action and provision of water saving supports such as cistern bricks and water butts. Have partnered with Keep NI Beautiful on Plastic Promise programme for GAA clubs|
|Action Renewables||Energy||Energy Partner of GAA Green Clubs in NI. Carrying out energy audits and compiling registers of opportunities for energy savings|
|Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)||Water, Waste, Biodiversity, Transport||Provision of water quality site visits for clubs, in cooperation with NI Water.|
The following clubs and grounds were involved in Phase 1 of the GAA Green Club programme:
• Culloville Blues, Armagh
• Lámh Dhearg, Antrim
• St. Mary’s Rasharkin, Antrim
• Crossmaglen Rangers, Armagh
• St Joseph’s Craigbane, Derry
• Naomh Muire Íochtar na Rosann, Donegal
• Buncrana, Donegal
• Belcoo O’Rahilly’s, Fermanagh
• Strabane Sigersons, Tyrone
• St Patrick’s, Limerick
• Kilmeen & Kilbree Cork
• Midleton, Cork
• Clonakilty, Cork
• Tralee Parnells, Kerry
• Affane-Cappoquin GAA & Cappoquin Camogie Club, Waterford
• Killenaule, Tipperary
• Clan na Gael, Louth
• Mullingar Shamrocks, Westmeath
• Ballycumber, Offaly
• Kildavin Clonegal, Carlow
• Na Fianna, Dublin
• Kilmacud Crokes, Dublin
• St. Finian’s, Dublin
• Cuala, Dublin
• Lucan Sarsfields, Dublin
• Cappagh, Kildare
• Park/Ratheniska, Laois
• Ballina Stephanites, Mayo
• Clarinbridge, Galway
• St Colman’s Camogie Club, Galway
• Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence, Mayo (regional venue)
LGIU is grateful for Alan Dunney’s insights on the GAA Green Club programme. You can find out more on the Climate Action Regional Offices website here.