Europe urgently needs efficient, low-carbon energy sources to meet projected energy demands while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While the technology for alternative energy is available, it will only make a real difference to climate change if embraced by the public. Energy research organisations are, however, failing to capture the public's interest due in part to their highly technical language and reluctance to consider socioeconomic concerns. The EU-funded R&DIALOGUE (Research and civil society dialogue towards a low-carbon society) project addressed these issues by promoting dialogue between research institutions and civil society. Scientists spoke with public consultants, non-governmental organisations and policymakers in the energy sector about developing renewable energy and technologies that capture and store carbon. To get 2 000 diverse people talking, R&DIALOGUE organised Dialogue Councils in each of the 10 participating Member States. The idea was for members to exchange their views on achieving a low-carbon society during open-dialogue, face-to-face (sometimes by video conferencing) sessions. Project members also interviewed relevant organisations and individuals within society on the unique challenges faced by each nation. They found, for example, that while Greece's carbon dioxide emissions are low, its geographical location makes it especially vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. No country faces a bigger or more urgent challenge, however, than the below-sea-level Netherlands. Norway, meanwhile, could have a big influence on climate change as a country with both huge hydropower capacity and the largest fossil fuel exports in Europe. By listening to various public concerns and creating realistic expectations, energy-related research should bring publically acceptable solutions to climate change. As a reward, research institutes that better interact with civil society should see their work more positively received by end users. The EU's target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 % by 2050 will depend on civil society and scientists sharing objectives and solutions. Making citizens feel part of the processes that result in new policies and technologies will bring Europe closer to achieving a low-carbon society.
Climate change, low-carbon society, greenhouse gas emissions, R&DIALOGUE, civil society