“Research from OECD countries shows that where there is good public participation in policy development, the outcomes are far improved and the cost of implementing those policies is reduced”, explained Dr. Gillian Nelson, Policy Coordinator at Climate Action Network International.
But to ensure this participation occurs, the process must be clearly outlined from the beginning and communicated throughout, said Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office.
This was a lesson learned by the German government, according to Luisa Rölke, Head of Division at the German Permanent Representation to the EU. She explained that her government’s recent consultation on its 2050 climate plan revealed that citizens and local communities were not familiar with the consultation process. So, while some groups agreed on specific measures, they were unaware that the input from other stakeholder groups, and the transformation into a government strategy meant some of their ideas were not taken up.
But including the public in the development and implementation of these plans is not just a nice-to-have, it is part of citizens’ rights under the Aarhus Convention, explained Marta Toporek, Lawyer and project leader at ClientEarth.
“Under the Convention, the public should be consulted early in the process of developing plans, have reasonable time to participate, and due account must be taken of the outcome of the consultation”, she explained.
One way of reaching citizens is setting up actions closer to home, for example at local or city level. Cities around the world have become leading actors on climate change, with over 1,000 already having put forward 2030 climate & energy saving plans and set emissions reductions targets, pointed out Alix Bolle, EU Affairs Manager at Energy Cities.
Canddie Magdelenat , Sustainable Cities Officer at WWF France, agreed. She gave the example of Rouen in France, which set targets for emissions reduction in sectors, such as buildings and transport with the help of stakeholder groups WWF France set up.
At EU level, the Energy Union governance proposal is a key chance to strengthen national climate strategies for 2050, and push for guidance to be provided for Member States on what their strategies should contain, pointed out WWF’s Imke Lübbeke. The proposal will be put to a first Parliamentary vote on 28 November.
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