Our Application of the Sustainable Development Goals

link to UN SDGS site

The Environmental Forum partners with the community in many ways, initially through its own structure and representation (at both membership and executive level) of the four pillars of society – Business & Commercial, Public Sector, Community & Voluntary and Individuals. This structure lends to collaboration and a way of working in collaboration and partnership with all stakeholders from the local authorities of Cork City and County, to state bodies (e.g. SWRO, EPA, HSE / ETB, National Water Forum), industry, traders, farming interests, fisheries, forestry, teachers, academic institutions, local development agencies (e.g. UCC/SECAD), community groups, professional environmentalists and other voluntary organisations, especially those with similar aims (e.g. Coastwatch, Cork Nature Network) as well as individuals with an interest in environmental care.

Our members are directly engaged and active within their own localities and are a vital part of the organisation as active membership is sought and encouraged.  The Environmental Forum is a key partner, and in some cases an initiator, of collaborations which respond to particular aspects of sustainability these include EcCoWell, the Transport and Mobility Forum and the Cork Food Policy Council. CEF supported the establishment of the Cork Climate Action group and the Cork Sky Friendly Campaign which is now a member of the recently formed Dark Sky Ireland group.

We have been very active in the Green Spaces for Health project which is being piloted in the South Parish but with replicability elsewhere. The Environmental Forum is often the first point of contact for individuals and communities challenged by plans negatively impacting the environment or people wishing to highlight their rich environment. We provide a platform for balanced objective and expert information and for supporting protection of the environment.

Evolved from a GAP Greener Living training programme, Boomerang Enterprises, a social enterprise project which deconstructs post-consumer mattresses, has a very strong support partnership with the local authorities, the Cork City Partnership and community members.  The project has triple benefits, socially, environmentally and economically, with a vital feature being the employment and training provided to the local community.

The Environmental Forum often takes on the role of intermediary in its work linking national initiatives with local action in communities e.g. as Regional Coordinator of the Coastwatch Survey, representation on the National Water Forum,  membership of the Community Reuse Network of Ireland and representation on the Growing Lifelong Learning in Cork (GLLiC)/ UNESCO Learning City steering group. Our members also sit on the Public Participation Network Secretariats, SPCs and LCDC as well as Boards such as SECAD.

Our educational and awareness raising activities and actions with communities help to implement national policies locally examples such as Waste Reduction Climate Change, Protection of Water Quality and Biodiversity and many others. Such project activities and actions are carried our across a broad range of areas with a particular focus on Transport, Waste, Water, Energy, Biodiversity, Consumption and Food. Threaded through all of these focus areas is a subtle reference to adaptation and mitigation of Climate Change and steps in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The organisation responds to relevant consultations at local, regional and national level which is a vital avenue to influence change and contribute to policies that support sustainability. The Environmental Forum is very active within the Environmental College of the Public Participation Network (PPN) and engages with Local Partnerships and others in progressing complementary programmes e.g. Refill Ireland. The Environmental Forum with the project partners and agencies involved in Boomerang Enterprises sought to deal with the issue of illegal dumping and reduced availability of landfill for such bulky waste items as mattresses and instead recovering them for recycling and reuse of the component materials. This project is a good practice example of supporting the EU Directive on the Circular Economy, the National Waste Policy “A Resource Opportunity” and the Regional Waste Plans.

In the area of water we are a very active member of the Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) and through this membership participates in forums on aquaculture, water quality and water related issues such as abstraction and in promoting proper catchment management.  We are represented at the EPA Water Seminar an important forum for sharing key aspects of policy on water and broad sectoral engagement.  Activities on water support policies such as the Water Framework Directive through the River Basin Management Plan,the Marine Spatial Plan and the CFRAMS.

A representative from The Environmental Forum sits on the National Water Forum which is a broad based stakeholder forum. We also engage locally with groups to celebrate and highlight World Water Day, host Heritage Week events and develops links and supports  with local catchment groups through our members e.g. Funschion catchment group. CEF encourages engagement by members and communities with the activities of LAWPRO. We are actively engaged in supporting the rollout of the Refill Ireland initiative with additional support from Cork City Council gained a lot of traction with businesses in the City to support “no quibble refills” and help eliminate plastic bottle waste. Two launches took place recently in Mallow and Youghal as this project continues to grow.

Specific projects will complement particular policies such as The Climate and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, Cork City and County Development Plans, Local Economic and Community Plans, Biodiversity Plans, All Ireland Pollinator Plan, Renewable Energy Policy, SMARTER Travel, Healthy Ireland and others. We continually raise awareness of, and promotes participation where appropriate in national policy documents and responds on a regular basis to consultations on policy at a local, regional and national level.

Translating the aims of Local Agenda 21/ Agenda 2030 is the basis of our work through a process which facilitates building more sustainable and resilient communities. The Environmental Forum has an ongoing commitment under the Local Agenda 21 Guidelines to support the work of others in delivering better sustainable development outcomes for Cork City and County. CEF works in cooperation with the two local authorities and others in seeking to support the implementation of Local Agenda 2030 ad the goals through all opportunities where greater local ownership of, and local participation in, decision making for sustainable community development will strengthen the sustainability of the county.

The Environmental Forum sets an example for the LA21 process which recognises that all sectors share responsibility for the environment and opportunities must be developed for them to work in co-operation and agreement and that sustainable development can only be achieved by partnership ‘of all stakeholders, sharing ideas, information and resources, consultation and joint action.

link to UN SDGS site

We share information on EU legislation transposed in to Irish law that has relevance to the environment e.g. the Aarhus Convention. The UCC, Law and Environment Conference, held annually is a useful training and development opportunity which CEF members attend. Recently The Environmental Forum participated actively in the consultation on the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Region. We are a regular contributor to policy by responding and engaging in a broad range

Participation, awareness and education about sustainable development and how communities can be part of the process are on-going elements of all of our activities and actions. The Global Action Plan Greener Living programme is an important training opportunity within which to do this. CEF delivered a GAP Training in the South Parish in late 2018, which is one of the newer Learning Neighbourhood areas, we completed another training with a group in Farranferris in March/April 2019. We delivered 3 separate modules for the ETB during the Lifelong Learning Festival in Macroom and Youghal.  Our adaptation of the GAP programme “Living Sustainability” is being offered to primary school teachers as offerings for their Summer Courses 2019.

The Environmental Forum is a key representative on a number of partnerships e.g, EcCoWell, Cork Food Policy Council, the Transport and Mobility Forum, Cork Climate Action and Cork Sky Friendly Campaign which helps to bridge the gap between policy and practice within local communities. We often act as the intermediary between national initiatives and local action. Through engagement with the activities, projects and processes of our participants can then implement the process deeper within their local communities towards a more sustainable society e.g. Zero Waste Cobh, Green Spaces for Health, Refill Ireland initiative for Cork

The success to date of cooperation and collaboration has been beneficial in reaching a broader cohort of people and has delivered events and actions with greater efficiency and effectiveness e.g. Mix Your Mode, Coastwatch Survey participation, Street Feast engagement across the county. We were successful in securing 3 month funding from the Healthy Ireland programme for a coordinator for the Transport and Mobility Forum early in 2018 and applied for Round 2 and secured further funding from November 2018 to March 2019 with a combined funding from Cork City and Cork County Councils. We continue to help coordinate the roll out of the Green Spaces for Health initiative and facilitated the Healthy Ireland funding for the Cork Food Policy Council mapping project in Round 2.

The Environmental Forum is engaged with a deeper analysis of the issues and facilitates the Local Environment Network to make submissions to consultations, in conjunction with the City and County PPNs. 

The Circular Economy aims can be furthered with the work of the Boomerang Enterprises and is focusing on realizing the reuse opportunities of the textiles and engagement with businesses in finding uses for retaining resources in use in 2019. The Environmental Forum successfully applied for an additional 3 staff through the Community Services Programme in early 2018, these additional staff have helped to bring more consistency and a better level of service to the project. The project supported 5 directly employed posts.

In addition in November 2018 a number of longer term CE placements were secured through the Northside Community Education as well as a trial with Deaf Enterprises. In January 2019 a more formal arrangement was made with Deaf Enterprises to develop a second shift for the project to increase throughput and secure a better cashflow.

The Environmental Forum continues to support projects such as Zero Waste initiatives and develops new relationships such as with Alliance Francaise in the screening of “Le Temps des Foret” at the 2019 30th Anniversary French Film Festival at which we gave away 100 trees donated to the event by Future Forests. Feedback has emphasized how much more informed people feel about the Forest sector and how it operates.

We also liaise with the SWRO and Cork City Council to deliver events and raise awareness for Reuse Month in October and avail of Cork City Council Waste Prevention Grants to pilot new initiatives e.g. link with students at St. John’s College on upcycling outfits for the show.

The Cork Sky Friendly Campaign is concerned with the use of excessive artificial lighting and hopes to make a contribution to positive changes in this regard which will help to reduce energy use and cost  adding to reductions required under our Climate Change commitments. This is something that can be effected at a community level perhaps in conjunction with the Sustainable Energy Communities. We have contributed to the Earth Hour event 2019 and helped to organise the EcCoWell/ Dark Sky Ireland event “Bright Planning for the Urban Environment; the Dark Side of Ilumination” on 13th May 2019.

We engage with young people and youth through talks, workshops and forums such as the ECO-UNESCO Judging Panel for Eco-Projects. There is a growing interest from all sectors in the environment after the reports from the IPCC, the World Wildlife Fund and the activities of young people inspired by the activist Greta Thunberg. We have been asked to participate in many events such as the Aosta Conference, Fermoy Friendship Week, moderate the Panel Discussion for MEP candidates and contribute to many other forums, sometimes more than we have capacity to respond to, however, our many volunteers are invaluable in helping with events whether a showcase at the UCC Green metrics or initiatives such as play days at the Marina or the planting day at the Food Forest and Douglas Street.

We reach approximately 1,500 people directly each quarter (annually over 6,000) people from activities and events we run to networks and events we are represented at. If you add in conferences, events and training this adds 4,000 or more. The Biodiversity Conference and Water Conference both having very big attendances as do some of the events organised by LAWCO and CRNI. We function as an important link between people, communities and agencies and statutory bodies to progress the goals of Local Agenda/ Action 21 in Cork which is ultimately a way to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals. We engage with many more thousands of people through social media platforms and our regular Newsletters. Our Newsletter has a wide circulation and shares information and encourages participation in many events, actions and opportunities for individuals and groups engage e.g. Bride EIP, Tidy Towns Climate Action Award.

Support and participation across sectors in activity, social cohesion and community action will ultimately help to develop more sustainable local communities and deliver outcomes for the Sustainable Development Goals and our global commitment to these.

Each year the thematic focus may change and we adapt our events to reflect this.  We also highlight such themes in the delivery of our GAP Programmes and link people who undertake the training with events and activities. The Environmental Forum is very collaborative in the manner in which we work and we utilise effectively the many networks and relationships built up over many years to deliver seminars, actions and input into policy.

The reports from the IPCC and others have led to a renewed focus on Climate Change including from the media, whilst Blue Planet, the Living Planet Report and the first Biodiversity Conference in Ireland have helped to highlight the parallel challenge of the biosphere collapse.

The Environmental Forum’s Annual Plan for 2019 was drawn from the 3 Year Strategic Plan objectives. The work programme consists of some activities and events which are repeated annually such as the Rebel Pedal and our Annual Environmental Awards. We select some of the important universal dates in the environmental calendar to highlight e.g. Biodiversity Day, Earth Hour, World Environment Day, World Oceans Day.

Stemming from the more widespread coverage in all mediums there appears to be greater engagement form all sectors of society and our main challenge is capacity issues due to constrained resources to meet all the requests for support and to act as a conduit for people to engage and act together to address these key challenges.