Dingle sustainability initiative hailed by the UN

The project aims to transition the Dingle Peninsula 'into a low-carbon society'
Dingle sustainability initiative hailed by the UN

Clochar beach on Slea Head looking out towards An Fear Marbh on the Dingle Peninsula in West Kerry. Picture: Dan Linehan

A burgeoning partnership between community organisations in Dingle, the ESB, and Cork-based energy researchers has been lauded by the UN as a shining example of sustainable development.

The UN's Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC), one of 63 around the world dedicated to highlighting global objectives and awareness of special projects, has highlighted the Dingle Peninsula 2030 project as a case study.

Dingle Peninsula 2030 describes itself as an initiative for a more environmentally and economically sustainable future for the region, which has long been considered one of the most beautiful areas in Europe.

According to its objective statement, "the goal is to transition our beautiful peninsula into a low-carbon society". 

By reducing energy demands and using local renewable resources, the initiative could save the region as much as €8m, Dingle Peninsula 2030 says.

The entity is made up of the Dingle Creativity and Innovation Hub, ESB Networks, community development organisations North East and West Kerry Development, and the Cork-based national research centre for energy, climate and the marine, MaREI.

Its aim is to work with the local community and transport and farming sectors to help the peninsula become more sustainable and meet UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Highlighted on the UNRIC's website are Dingle Peninsula 2030's achievements in establishing the Dingle Sustainable Energy Community, and developing an education and outreach programme and associated website.

Its secondary schools intervention initiatives, as well as its pilot farm ambassador programme using soil and water monitors to ensure that the impact from the spreading of fertilisers is minimised, is also emphasised. 

The importance of community meetings to give residents an opportunity to voice their concerns and priorities on sustainability, and improving sustainable transport links, are also listed as key.

The focus at the beginning was the climate crisis but it shifted more towards sustainability, stakeholders said.

Manager of Dingle Creativity and Innovation Hub, Deirdre de Bhailís, said: "Our mission is to build a flourishing community, fostering a vibrant and diverse ecosystem of stakeholders to facilitate the creation and maintenance of well-paid, year-round jobs on the Dingle Peninsula."

The case study on UNRIC's website describes tourism as contributing about 30% of the economic activity in the area.

Whilst tourism brings an economic boon, it has drawbacks such as heavy reliance on seasonal employment and a lack of availability of long-term housing, with short-term rentals jamming the market at times.

It has led to less young people settling in the area after university, and an ageing population, according to the project.

PhD researcher in energy engineering at MaREI, Connor McGookin, said: “Climate action and community development are inseparable, particularly in rural areas. We will not have a transition to a low carbon energy system if we do not have healthy, vibrant communities.”

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