Gavin Harte of ESD Training conducted the feasibility report.

Finance the key issue behind Climate Action hub for Cavan

FEASIBILITY Application submitted to IFI to fund hub staff

Cavan is a few steps closer to having a Climate Action Hub for the county after the launch of a feasibility study into the project at Cavan Crystal Hotel on Friday.

While the launching of the feasibility study may seem like the obvious first step, County Cavan Local Development (CCLD), who has been driving the climate hub project has already taken steps two and three by making an application to the International Fund for Ireland to support the project.

There was little by way of detail on how the hub would be used, and a greater focus on how it would be financed.

A “pragmatic” and “phased” approach was emphasised by Gavin Harte of ESD Training, who was commissioned by CCLD and the Department of Rural and Community Development to undertake the study. Gavin Harte had previously been employed to provide environmental action training in the county, which resulted in the founding of Cavan Communities 4 Climate Action.

Mr Harte suggested that in the first phase the hub could initially consolidate existing programmes which are environmental in nature but not branded as such.

“We all would have a wish list of things we would hope to achieve [through the climate hub] but they are not going to happen from day one,” he asserted to an audience dominated by community activists and local politicians, which included Deputy Brendan Smith and county councillors.

Mr Harte identified CCLD as “a key stakeholder” in delivering the project. CCLD, along with the Department for Rural and Community Development, commissioned the feasibility report.

“To expect that volunteers can make that happen is missing the point and the urgency and the importance of climate action. Creating a staff role is a key first step in making the hub a viable project,” he emphasised.

MC for the occasion John Toland of CCLD explained to the audience that off the back of the study they had, in partnership with an unnamed local authority in the North, applied to the International Fund for Ireland to provide funding for the human resources aspect of the project.

“It might be getting a little bit ahead of ourselves, but we will be waiting for news on that,” said Mr Toland, suggesting they might hear back before Christmas.

Mr Harte identified a number of obstacles to climate action, namely limited acceptance of climate emergency as a pressing issue, the assumption that volunteers would drive the move towards climate action, and how to finance a climate hub.

Mr Harte embraced those problems saying: “It has to be called into question from the start - how do we make this thing stand on its own legs?

“A key learning from the case studies that we examined was that climate action hubs fall over as quick as they start - they start off with great enthusiasm and people saying we want to do something here, but then the actual momentum to keep that enthusiasm going falls apart - and that can’t be allowed to happen any more. We really need to make climate action a viable project, that it works within communities and society.”

One of those who seemingly needs no persuasion of the threat of the climate crisis is Minister Heather Humphreys. She recalled visiting Carlingford, one of several towns to have suffered “significant flooding” in recent weeks and said it was “heartbreaking to see the suffering caused to homeowners and businesses.

“I went into one hotel and the complete basement was flooded coming right up to the ground floor,” said the minister.

“It was so difficult for them. When you see that - all your belongings ruined - it takes a big toll on people.”

Minsiter Humphreys also referenced communities in Midleton, Roslare and Clarinbridge who have suffered from severe flooding events and concluded that Climate change is already impacting Ireland.

“There’s no doubt that we are going to experience a lot more of these extreme weather events in the years to come.”

She referenced a project called Brí Nua organised by the event’s other guest speakers, local environmentalists Barry Kavanagh, Eilish McGowan and Goska Wilkowska, which seeks to provide a practical option for individuals, companies and State to play their part through carbon credits (See next week’s Celt for more on Brí Nua).

“I have no doubt that the actions arising from this [feasibility] study will empower more stakeholders and more communities to get together and get involved in sustainable practices,” said the minister.