While there is growing awareness of the severity of climate change and its potentially devastating impacts there is little focus on the role of rural communities in climate action. Having worked with the rural communities for a great number of years, the team in Dublin Rural LEADER have gained an in-depth understanding of the structure and mindset of rural communities, businesses and individuals. One of our RDP Officers, Nellie, who completed her MSc in Environmental Policy at UCD in 2017 chose to investigate the perceptions and climate action potential of rural communities as her work for her thesis further contributing to an existing wealth of knowledge in the company.

Climate change is scientifically proven to pose serious, multiple, mainly negative changes in natural and human systems due to increasing mean and land temperatures. Furthermore, the scientific community has little doubt about this phenomenon being inflicted by anthropogenic activity such as modern production and consumption patterns. In order to prevent irreversible destruction of fragile eco-systems a transition to a low-carbon economy with decarbonisation at the core is essential. Without tailoring actions such as adaptation and mitigation to local needs, involving local actors and cultural dimensions global policies have little hope to succeed.

Rural areas are both exposed to and vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Even though these areas, communities, individuals and businesses could potentially play a significant role in Climate Action their role remains unexplored. The majority of policies focus solely on top-down initiatives without utilising the strong social capital and economic networks that exist in rural areas. The rural areas of Ireland have a great Climate Action potential however it is dependent on their ability to act collectively, emanating from empowerment of communities through collective decision-making and implementation.

The LEADER Programme, which has assisted the rural communities and individuals of Ireland since its launch in 1991, implementing community-led local development is a key factor in empowering these communities to fulfil their environmental potential. The new, 2014-2020 Programme places an especially strong emphasis on these issues as Climate Change and Environment are now over-arching themes that must be incorporated into all projects. Throughout the last two and a half decades Dublin Rural LEADER has funded a number of successful environmental environments ranging from the re-establishment of the grey partridge in Fingal, to training children and conservation volunteers to supporting sustainable irrigation systems at community allotments and investigation of various alternative sources of energy.

25% of the 4.8 million budget of the current programme is dedicated to the Rural Environment theme which encompasses water resources, renewable energy and biodiversity. Communities and businesses can apply for funding for various animation and awareness raising programmes and infrastructural support. Furthermore, in 2018 two targeted calls will be announced both relating to the theme of Rural Environment, the first being water conservation awareness and training programme with a dedicated budget of €60,000. The team of Dublin Rural LEADER is very keen to engage with environmental projects and initiatives and anyone interested is most welcome to contact us at our office.