Political discourse acknowledges that climate change is real and the government has tasked the citizens’ assembly with devising strategies for making Ireland a leader in tackling climate change. As consumers, our choices and behaviours can influence energy demand and carbon emissions. This article explores attitudes, opinions and behaviours relating to climate change, renewable energy and citizen engagement in Ireland.
The following discussion is informed by quantitative survey data from 455 participants, seven semi-structured interviews with industry thought leaders, and social media research. This three-pronged approach provides valuable insight in terms of perceptions toward climate change and energy behaviour.
Energy policy is geared toward substantially decarbonising the Irish economy by 2050 to mitigate the effects of climate change. An energy transformation is required to achieve policy-led targets for renewable energy, energy efficiency and carbon emissions. The societal challenges associated with such a broad transformation will be significant, and Government has made some incremental efforts to involve the public.
The concept of an ‘energy citizen’ and ‘prosumer’ have been introduced in recent policy papers. With the exception of the recently formed citizens’ assembly, public participation in climate change and energy policy discourse has been negligible.
[caption id="attachment_39402" align="alignright" width="300"] CLICK TO ENLARGE Fig 1: Who is most important in combating climate change (weighted average; n=375)[/caption]
Encouragingly, the study finds that over 85% of respondents agree that Ireland needs to do more to fight climate change. It is evident that citizens acknowledge their role, but expect Government to show climate leadership.
Figure 1 illustrates that the majority believe “government and policy makers” are the most important stakeholder in taking on that challenge.