Manual “Organization and Holding of Public Hearings on Consideration of Sustainable Energy Action Plans: Methodological Recommendations”
Increased public involvement in adoption of responsible decisions for sustainable energy development of the Ukrainian cities and achievement of energy independence of this country is the ultimate goal of the Manual “Organization and Holding of Public Hearings on Consideration of Sustainable Energy Action Plans: Methodological Recommendations”, developed by USAID Municipal Energy Reform Project (USAID Project).
Public hearings have already become standard practice in many cities of Ukraine, however, still there is existing space for improvement the organization and methods of holding. Some of the cities still have neither the City Charter prescribing the procedure for organization and holding of public hearings, nor the regulation on such event. The public hearings themselves sometimes happen to be formal and lacking meaningful participation of third parties.
Accordingly, the Manual objective is to provide the individuals and organizations, which proceed with decision making, with the methodology to effectively incorporate public opinion and evidences on local energy policy and, in particular, development and implementation of the municipal Sustainable Energy Action Plans.
EXPECTED EFFECT OF THE MANUAL
As the development of sustainable energy in cities have impacts on every resident, discussing and deciding on sustainable energy solutions should be conducted upon actual public involvement. Meaningful public involvement can be ensured inter alia by the mechanism of public hearings, however, certain requirements shall be met by the process of public hearings.
Following recommendations of the Manual to organize and conduct public hearings, public institutions and other policy makers will be enabled to provide opportunities for citizens and other public to meaningfully participate in decision making, thus way facilitating wider support by communities and promotion for the presented decisions.
TARGET AUDIENCE OF THE MANUAL
- representatives of local authorities;
- employeesofcommunalutilities (heatsupply, watersupplyandsewage, publictransport, streetlighting, amenityplantingandlandscaping, etc.);
- members of NGOs;
- representatives of condominiums, bodies of self-organization of population (building and street committees);and citizens.
PRACTICAL MANUAL IN GREATER DETAIL
Section One of the Manual presents prerequisites for development of a Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) – a document which is developed by all signatories to the Covenant of Mayors (European Union Initiative) for reduction of fossil fuels consumption by 20%, increased use of alternative and renewable energy sources by 20% and reduction of CO2 emission by 20%. In view of the energy and environmental challenges that Ukraine is facing, the Ukrainian cities are actively joining the European initiative. Development of the Sustainable Energy Action Plans is an important task for all the 17 cities, which are partners of the USAID Project and signatories to the Covenant of Mayors as well. Implementation of SEAPs requires sustainable support from the local community, which can be ensured through meaningful involvement of public into decision making process.
Public hearings are an efficient tool for incorporation of public opinion. Section Two presents the complexity and multidimensionality of formation of public opinion towards policy decisions.
The Manual reviews advantages and deficiencies of referendum and sampling sociological survey, alternative methods of determining public opinion. The Manual concludes the public hearings give maximum effect when they are “built into” the system of permanent comprehensive dialogue between the authorities and the public.
Section Three covers key phases in preparation for and organization of public hearings: technical solutions’ phase, political decisions’ phase, informal discussion phase, peak of information campaign at time for holding public hearings, and concluding phase – adoption of changes suggested by the community and publicizing of results. The focus is made on reasoning the importance of the information campaign covering key SEAP provisions. Informing before the public hearings is a natural component of general information campaign for SEAP implementation.
Recommendations on organization of public hearings refer to selection of the venue, invitation of the participants, questioning, and presentations by the experts, proposals and comments by the hearings participants, development of the event agenda, role and function of the moderator.
Significant attention is paid in the Manual to SEAP presentation at the public hearings. Specifically, optimal structure and format of the presentation are recommended, the most typical mistakes in the contents and format of the presentation are analyzed. The tips are provided for its better perception by the participants of public hearings.
Annexes present summarized version of the municipal Sustainable Energy Action Plan, as well as a questionnaire of the public hearings participant.
The Methodological Recommendations will be useful to all those interested in taking account of a constructive public opinion during adoption of responsible decisions regarding sustainable development of the Ukrainian municipalities.
PRACTICAL IMPACT OF THE MANUAL
The brochure offers a holistic approach to the instrument of public hearings in the context of activities of local authorities which is called “public involvement in decision making”. This comprehensive vision is mandatory as public hearings demonstrate the highest productiveness when it is not a separate measure but rather is integrated naturally in systemic and task-oriented work with the public.
Key provisions and conclusions of the brochure prove that development of the energy policy together with the public is more transparent, democratic, takes account of the public opinion and guarantees community participation in implementation of the energy strategy. Joint approval of the decisions at public hearings which is considered in the brochure in detail improves their quality, efficiency and legitimacy in the eyes of the Ukrainians.