Understanding the Government's Climate Action Plan
One of the biggest questions the world is facing right now is ‘how can we prevent climate change?’. And while there are plenty individuals can do to reduce waste and minimise their carbon footprint, the fact remains that it’s a larger problem than any one person can resolve.
It’s an issue that requires governmental action to create the type of transformational change that will bring the climate emergency to an end. But what exactly does the government’s climate plan involve and how does it impact nonprofits?
What is the government’s climate action plan?
The government recently released its updated climate action plan, outlining the targets it has set for the next nine years. These include, among other targets:
- increasing the use of wind and solar to 80%
- phasing out the use of coal and peat-fired electricity generation
- enabling 500,000 sustainable travel journeys every day with public transport projects and the expansion of rail, cycling and walking infrastructure
- increasing bus and rail electrification, with 1,500 electric buses put on the roads
- increasing EVs to one million
- reducing food waste by 50% and ensuring all plastic packaging is either reusable or recyclable
- increasing afforestation via a new Forestry Programme, to launch in 2023.
Citizens and local communities have a key role to play in the implementation of this new climate action plan, which will coincide with the government’s support of a €165 billion National Development Plan. This will include retrofitting homes and buildings for greater energy efficiency, investing in new public transport and reskilling workers.
Why is it relevant to the community and voluntary sector?
Community effort is needed to raise awareness and lobby others into action. Collective action is essential – climate change can’t be tackled by just one person or business. With over 34,000 nonprofit organisations in Ireland, this sector employs over 164,000 people. These are sufficient numbers to make a huge difference to climate change, if more communities and organisations within this sector work towards the wider goals.
From a logistical perspective, the regulatory changes that will be implemented in the coming years will alter how these organisations operate, from waste and transport to buildings. Adaption to the climate crisis will alter the landscape in which voluntary organisations and communities work, as well as the communities being served by them.
Reaching the goal of a climate neutral economy by 2050 will require an improvement to the climate literacy of the general public, promotion of climate education and communications to help everyone understand the effects of their actions, promoting active engagement and helping communities transition to carbon neutrality in ways that are meaningful and impactful to them.
Why climate needs to be at the centre of nonprofit and charity conversations
Nonprofits are in a good position to help communities with these changes and assist them with adapting to new ways of living and working. Voluntary groups are in a good position to bounce ideas off one another and to think through issues together from the perspective of communities in need.
The government has a target of increasing the number of Sustainable Energy Communities to 1,500 and establishing a Community Outreach Programme to help the general public adapt – something that volunteers and nonprofit organisations are going to be a big part of.
There will be an essential need for communities to rally together to achieve these targets, and with plans to reduce emissions from the public sector by 51% by 2030, with Green Teams in every public body, charities and nonprofits need to be talking about how they’ll help in achieving these targets.
How can community and voluntary organisations collaborate with corporate partners to increase sustainability?
When corporate businesses work towards a common aim with other organisations, it not only improves the outcome and reduces duplication of efforts, but it can also save costs too. Collaboration is important for smaller communities and nonprofit organisations who perhaps don’t have budget or infrastructure to deliver their vision. Joint marketing campaigns that increase fundraising and raise awareness are one example of how organisations can work together, to reach a wider pool of people.
Likewise, there’s an opportunity for networking and sharing skills, such as ‘lunch and learn' sessions with local charities, or accessible meet-up events where businesses and volunteers can get together to share ideas and knowledge, and build relationships. Perhaps you can work with local environmental groups to ideate ways your business can reduce waste or minimise your carbon footprint?
Or maybe there’s an opportunity to set up a sponsored event to raise money for a rainforest cause or contribute to activist movements. By pooling resources and skills, you can help to solve problems and increase the impact your changes make, by innovating and learning from the knowledge each organisation has.
What can community and voluntary organisations do to reduce their environmental footprint?
Saving the planet might not be the focus of your charity, but a sustainable planet is still critical in providing a better future for all. The first steps are simple but highly effective, from going paperless and increasing digital messaging to reduce the overall waste your organisation produces to working closely with making sure you have the right infrastructure for recycling products properly.
This might include having the appropriate recycling bins for sorting waste, as well as conducting a waste audit to identify areas where you can improve. In the UK, Waste management firm Countrystyle Recycling argue that “a waste audit is the first step needed to be taken to establish where improvements can be made and how to increase recycling within a business. Waste audits highlight common products wrongfully disposed of and areas within the business where recycling is better than others”.
Choose your suppliers carefully, such as switching to renewable energy or switching to a utility company that offers electricity from energy-efficient sources such as wind power or hydro stations. It’s also important to think long-term – as your organisation evolves or expands, are there ways you can utilise second-hand goods or refurbished tech to reduce the demand for new products and create a more circular economy.
Organisations can also arrange community workshops to educate on topics such as recycling, reducing waste or retrofitting homes to make them more energy efficient. Take inspiration from Community Resources Network Ireland (CRNI) who have a number of resources readily available :
- Want to learn how to make your business more Circular? - Businesses Toolkits
- Looking for ways to take simple individual action? - Individuals Toolkits
- Interested in doing a reuse event or activity? - Communities Toolkits
Education is one of the most effective ways to inspire change, so charities and nonprofits can connect with other towns and cities to discuss sustainable options and find solutions, or how they can create opportunities for individuals to work with others to nurture sustainability such as community repair workshops.
When we talk about climate action, the focus is rightly on the big players and corporate businesses. But that’s not to say that the voluntary sector has now power. With such a large group of people devoted to positive change, it makes sense that they should be involved with supporting climate change policies for a better planet overall.
This guest blog is written by an external contributor. The views expressed in the blog do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wheel or its members.