Ireland's Pilot Activity: BUILD CAPA-CITIES



Despite the various climate plans and actions at national level in Ireland, recent studies at  show that limited progress on transition to a low-carbon future has been made in the country.

Among the key concerns are the continued dominance of sub-optimal siloed approaches, pointing to the need for systems change, and calls for local authorities to play a more significant role in Ireland’s transition to a low-carbon future. While knowledge and expertise exist within each local authority to enable the delivery on the ground of programmes and projects that mitigate climate change and contribute to improved quality of life, this capacity needs to be informed and enhanced by systems innovation to increase collaboration and adaptive governance.

The two Mission Cities of Cork and Dublin have a good track record of working together at all levels on climate action.

The three pilot activities have been designed with consideration for how the two cities could bring a combined 7500 staff of the City Councils on a coherent journey that recognises and activates how they and their work are key contributors to our cities becoming and remaining climate-neutral in a manner that the public can appreciate and truly buy into.

In the Irish context, both City Councils are responsible for supporting sustainable energy communities (SECs), developing decarbonisation zones, and more recently have been tasked with the administration of the National Community Climate Action Fund (CCAF). All these activities are focused on building the capacity of communities to undertake projects that address energy, transport, waste and circular economy, adaptation, biodiversity and just transition.

Description of Activities

  1. Despite the climate commitments at national and local level, in practice, the shift towards a whole of local authority approach to the governance of climate action has been slow and ineffectual. Pilot Activity 1 will build capacity of Council staff and key partners through co-designed workshops on systems thinking for decarbonisation, extending this responsibility from a single specialist department to the entire organisation.
  2. Pilot Activity 2 is a place-based process innovation and a new collaborative governance model for delivering climate action in Irish cities. Different focuses in Dublin and Cork will support cross-sectoral learning to develop deep understanding of the behaviours maintaining the status quo barriers to change in each city and how to resolve them.
  3. Developing an innovative communication strategy : The traditional practice of reactive responses to climate action initiatives implemented in both cities has made effective communication a challenge.  Pilot Activity 3 will reshape the cities’ usual communication practices to support and maintain the system transformation they are striving for by speaking to the Irish tradition of storytelling.

To sum up, the pilot will use the innovative vehicle of behavioural science to bridge disciplines and build capacity through the application of a challenge-led approach supported by applied learning programmes that:

  • Incentivise staff to upskill and learn.
  • Improve communication internally and externally.
  • Nurture a culture of knowledge exchange and interdisciplinary collaboration and co-creation.
  • Contribute to systems transformation that does no harm and improves quality of life.


To build capacity of 7500 local staff of the City Councils on a coherent journey that recognises and activates how they and their work are key contributors for Cork and Dublin in becoming and remaining climate-neutral in a manner that the public can appreciate and truly buy into.

Are cities building upon or part of a previous and/or existing activity?

The pilot has been informed by the activities undertaken by both cities in the lifetimes of their first climate action plans (2018-2023). The main lesson learnt was that there is a strong evidence base for the need to re-skill public sector organisations in light of the multi-dimensional climate crisis. This highlights the need for organisations that work better across functional areas to deliver a whole systems response to the climate crisis.

Dublin City Council, in the development of Climate Neutral Dublin 2030 plan conducted staff surveys, workshops and interviews with the support of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), that have highlighted several challenges including:

  • Climate action is recognised as a responsibility of the City Council, however, greater clarity is needed on how to weave into day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.
  • Staff are preoccupied with business as usual and with the public acceptance of transformative policies, they feel time is poor and that they could get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the changes that the net-zero transition entails.
  • Day-to-day work practices and organisation may hinder the staff’s capacity to contribute to the Plan as needed (e.g. very specific key performance indicators leading to a narrow focus and trade-offs between teams’ efforts).

Which emissions domains will the pilot activity address?

  • Consumption of electricity generated for buildings, facilities, and infrastructure

  • Consumption of non-electricity energy for thermal uses in buildings and facilities (e.g., heating, cooking, etc.)

  • All vehicles and transport (mobile energy)

  • Multi-sector waste management and disposal 

  • Land use (including agriculture, forestry, and other land uses) 

Systemic transformation – levers of change the pilot activities will exploit

  • Technology/Infrastructure 

  • Governance & Policy 

  • Social Innovation 

  • Democracy/Participation 

  • Learning & Capabilities

  • Data & Digitalisation

Stakeholder types that cities would like to engage in the pilot activities 

  • Academia

  • Research Institutions

  • Citizens

  • Business

  • Local NGO, Associations

Transferable features of pilot activities to a Twin City/ies 

  • A science-based approach on how to encourage behavioural change: g. to achieve substantial modal shift, a more climate positive use of city space, and more sustainable lifestyles within high-density housing development. The focus of developing capacity to integrate the application of behavioural science-informed approaches to policy and service design and delivery, using the micro-credential programme and the challenge-led methodology for systems change are likely to have significant relevance across Europe.
  • Establish a staff climate upskilling programme that includes a novel applied micro-credentials programme to tackle practical knowledge and skills gaps through a manageable, cost-effective training load, that will be readily applicable to other local authorities and their partners in climate action and other service areas. The core skills and knowledge developed will be applicable in a wider range of Council service settings and help deliver climate positive systemic change, whether as the key output, or as a co-benefit of action in related areas, such as transport or housing policy and service delivery.
  • Interactive maps of climate action initiatives for continuous knowledge exchange. This map will include the option for project leads to make a call for technical/knowledge support on proposed or ongoing projects, thereby making use of the collective intelligence of the organisation and be an enabler for cross departmental working.

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.

Enabling conditions that will support the successful replication of your pilot activities in the Twin City 

  1. Interest in staff training programmes
  2. Need for organisational change
  3. Sandboxes – similar level of responsibility
  4. Openness of city management to novel approaches

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.

What do cities want to learn from Twin City/ies? 

  1. Financing – novel methods within a constrained environment.
  2. Governance approaches
  3. Effective communication with public for buy in of climate actions
  4. Experience of maintaining staff momentum

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.