‘Building Climate Action Locally: Tools from the CCAT Project’, the final event of the ‘Coastal Communities Adapting Together’ project

‘Coastal Communities Adapting Together’ (CCAT) was a project part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Programme and ran from 2019 to 2021. The project was led by University College Dublin in partnership with Fingal County Council and University College Cork in Ireland, and Cardiff University, Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum and the Port of Milford Haven in Wales. The study area selected in Ireland for this project was Burrow Beach, Portrane (Fingal/North County Dublin), which is representative of how sustained coastal erosion and flooding, as a result of storm surges and continued sea level rise, are impacting coastal communities. It is also representative of how the lack of coordinated coastal climate adaptation governance can hamper climate action and further exacerbate the problem. Therefore, the aim of the CCAT project was to build capacity to change in Irish Sea coastal communities through the development of a series of citizen engagement tools that were showcased during a final online event held on the 2nd of February 2022. Some examples of the tools developed by the CCAT team are reported below.

Tools for engaging with local authorities. The CCAT project piloted the use of geodesign as a tool to build capacity among coastal communities and decision-makers to adapt to climate change through active citizen engagement. Geodesign is a participatory design method that uses stakeholder input, geospatial modelling, impact simulations, and real-time feedback to facilitate planning and decision making, and it was used within the framework of the CCAT project to design interventions and management actions for the Rogerstown Estuary and Portrane study areas in Fingal.

Tools for engaging with young people. The awareness that there is scarcity of educational materials about adaptation to climate change compared to the mitigation of its effects pushed the CCAT team to develop a tool for workshops with a coastal community in Pembrokeshire. This tool consisted in three sets of cards which people could physically move around during facilitated workshops and were aimed at helping people with three processes, i. e. looking at and prioritising the top changes in climate happening locally, thinking about and prioritising the top impacts these changes could have in their local area, and gathering inputs on and prioritising the most significant climate actions that are being taken or could be taken locally. In a second phase of the project, the cards were adapted for use with younger secondary school pupils during in-person workshops in schools. In these cases, the CCAT team used also a feedback board where the kids would self-analyse their feelings and learning about climate change both before (red sticker) and after the session (yellow sticker). The exercise showed a shift towards more understanding of climate change and captured different emotions in the class. For schools not able to host the sessions in person, an online version of the cards with a supplementary activity pack with various ideas from games to field trips was also produced.

Some screenshots from the final CCAT online event held on the 2nd of February 2022.

Tools for engaging with communities of place. A community tree planting project was delivered in April 2021 in the Port of Milford Haven as part of the community engagement activity around tackling climate change along the Milford Haven Waterway in Pembrokeshire. This project, called ‘Coastal Communities Growing Together’ (CCGT), included both adaptation and mitigation via ecosystem restoration although the immediate and obvious results of reducing carbon dioxide via tree planting is typically a form of mitigation. In fact, participants increased their understanding of how to select appropriate trees and gained a deeper understanding of the importance of considering the role of biodiversity in the climate adaption for generations to come. As part of the project, digital tools were developed to provide real-time monitoring of the initiative, including the carbon sequestration and biodiversity benefits resulting from the tree planting activity in terms that are relevant to the participants everyday experience (e.g., total amount of CO2 captured translated in the number of flights between two local destinations).

Tools for engaging with communities of practice. Over the course of the CCAT project, two virtual knowledge exchange and best practice events were organised and attended by well over 100 participants each. The aim of these activities was to develop and foster an interdisciplinary community of experts, practitioners, community groups and researchers. The first event, held in November 2020, recognised existing knowledge and policy gaps, and was identified as an opportunity to learn from what others are doing, and to build on existing best practice in policy and management, for both coastal management and climate change. Following the success of this first event, the second one in October 2021 brought together a diverse range of practitioners and academics, with expertise in policy making, coastal management, climate change adaptation, community engagement and more. Both events emphasised a resounding call for inter and transdisciplinarity across policy areas, sectors and disciplines to address the challenges of climate change in coastal regions.

As expected, the project was strongly affected by the impact of the Covid-19 restrictions, thus the activities were conducted as a mix of online and in-person interactions to help communities adapt together. An example of digital tools that were developed by the CCAT team are the virtual tours of the various study areas of the project. Using innovative technology, these tours allowed access to sites off limits in real life, thereby offering another tool to engage with the community about the ongoing climate adaptation happening locally. Finally, the CCAT produced also an animation aimed at coastal communities, especially young people, telling the story of how coastal areas are constantly changing. Inspired by the case of Portrane in Fingal, “Sea Change, Take Action! explains the geological evolution of coastal areas, presents the threats of sea-level rise due to climate change and describes available adaptation solutions to deal with coastal erosion.

The recording of the ‘Building Climate Action Locally: Tools from the CCAT Project’ event can be viewed on the CCAT YouTube channel here and the presentations given by the speakers on the day can be viewed here. For further information about the CCAT project you can contact pauline.power@ucd.ie (Ireland) and alex.cameron-smith@pembrokeshirecoastalforum.org.uk (Wales).

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