Next up in our series of articles showcasing the latest local government innovation from the Chambers Ireland 2022 Excellence in Local Government Awards, Mayo County Council share the story behind the award-winning Decarbonising Communities Network.
Action 165 of the Government’s Climate Action Plan 2019, requires Local Authorities to identify and develop plans for one Decarbonising Zone.
With local authorities requested to choose a Decarbonising Zone in February 2021, Mayo County Council took the approach of inviting communities to apply to become Mayo’s first Decarbonising Zone. Communities attended workshops led by experts in various fields, and 10 communities, representing 30% of the population of Mayo, applied to become Mayo’s initial decarbonising zone.
The Mayo Decarbonising Communities Network is a community-based project, which empowers communities around Mayo to address the climate emergency on a local level. The initiative provides a forum for communities to work together, learn from, and inspire each other to cut local emissions. In turn, these efforts contribute to the global goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
The initiative was formed as a direct response to a circular received from government in February 2021, requiring each local authority to establish a Decarbonising Zone, an action within the wider Climate Action Plan 2021.
Mayo County Council believed that community buy-in was essential for this to be a success. With this in mind, Mayo County Council took the alternative approach of inviting communities to apply to become Mayo’s first Decarbonising Zone, rather than imposing it on a community. Our confidence in this approach that communities want to decarbonise was bolstered by our work with Mayo PPN (Public Participation Network) on the ‘Mayo PPN goes Green’ initiative, a video series where the environmental initiatives of seven Mayo communities were spotlighted.
Communities were invited to attend workshops led by experts in various fields and 10 communities, representing 30% of the area of Mayo and 19% of the population, applied to become Mayo’s initial decarbonising zone. Mulranny was chosen as the Decarbonising Zone, but the 10 communities, with the support of Mayo County Council, have formed a network to learn from and support each other to reduce their emissions by 50% by 2030. For some communities, the process of applying to become Mayo’s Initial Decarbonising Zone led them to consolidate the work undertaken in their area to date, which was a valuable information-gathering exercise that has given courage of conviction to many communities to continue this work.
Many Mayo community groups are involved in networks such as the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s (SEAI) Sustainable Energy Communities, Farming for Nature, Tidy Towns, to name a few, all of which are important and have helped communities implement positive change. However, through the DZ application process and our work with the PPN, the Mayo County Council Environmental Awareness Officer, it became clear that although many groups and individuals were working on environmental and decarbonising actions, they were often unaware of what other groups in their community and across the county were doing. Here is where the Decarbonising Community Network serves its purpose.
The local authority engages with the network in numerous ways, including online meetings/workshops and community visits. The communities have presented their ‘Visions for 2030’ for their low-carbon future to their Municipal Districts. Their visions outline the beautiful future envisioned for their community and outline how they can be created by acting on climate change. Elected representatives and Mayo County Council have provided funding to community Climate action projects following these presentations. It has also opened doors to other funding streams and successful collaborations in the brief time it has been established. The local authority has engaged with the communities on various EU funding opportunities that have presented themselves due to the connections and partnerships built by the network.
At a high level, efforts to decarbonise benefit society as a whole. On a more local scale, the decarbonising communities network benefits the local communities by supporting the decarbonising committees and enabling them to support their communities.
Mayo’s Decarbonising Communities are already on track for a busy year. With so much happening in each community, here are some highlights for the year ahead for some of our Decarbonising Communities:
- Our decarbonising zone, Mulranny, is a partner in the University of Galway Toolkit to drive co-creation and climate action. It has received almost €500,000 in Pobal Strand 2 Community Climate Action funding stream, which was announced in October.
- Tourmakeady has completed a feasibility study on the micro-hydro potential and there are initial discussions underway on the feasibility of a solar farm in the area.
- Ballina marks 300 years in 2023, and the yearlong celebrations will focus on youth and sustainability. From July 4th – 8th 2023 there will be an international sustainability assembly with a decarbonising network event during this week. This follows the successful Mayo Communities Climate Action Gathering held in Ballina 2021.
- CALL won the Green Community Group of the Year Award at the Mayo County Council Cathaoirleach Awards 2023. Amongst their work, they are looking to develop a staffed climate action hub dedicated to working on their various climate action projects.
- Westport has gotten support from LAWPro (Local Authorities Water Programme) and Mayo County Council for a Seagrass survey, which will be undertaken in 2023, to assess the carbon capture and marine nursey ability of the seagrass in Clew Bay.
- In Breaffy, the N60 Breaffy Active Travel and Safety Measure Scheme is currently ongoing. This could help change the village and allow over 450 pupils that attend Breaffy NS to travel to school more sustainably.=
Due to the success of the network, Mayo County Council, with the support of the Mayo County Council Climate and Biodiversity subcommittee, aim to expand the network in 2023 following interest from other Mayo communities.