How important is public engagement to carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects? According to participants at a February 26 Education Outreach Workshop at the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC, very. It can ultimately mean the success or failure of a project.
Mike Fernandez with the Government of Alberta welcomed those from industry, government, environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academics and other stakeholders, who gathered to glean lessons learned from various case studies, research and other recommendations important for future CCS communications efforts.
Workshop goals included:
- facilitating discussion in North America on the importance of educational outreach materials on CCS
- improving access to current best practices
- creating networks for future collaborations.
From my perspective, here are six key takeaway lessons from the workshop:
- K12 Education: One of the greatest challenges in K12 education outreach is the lack of awareness among teachers and education boards on energy, especially CCS technology. Helping to develop curriculum resources, as well as showing teachers where CCS fits into their required curriculum can be key to educating the educators. Among the tactics recommended for public education and outreach, partnering with a regional public broadcasting network in one case yielded significant results and led to the creation of a successful Teacher Training Program.
- Resources: The number of resources and initiatives related to CCS is increasing. It includes college and professional schools, project websites, research consortia, environmental groups, school curriculum resources and more.
- Challenges: You need a certain amount of energy literacy – in the climate change context and where energy comes from – before you begin educating people on CCS. Outreach challenges can include a concept called “strategic apathy,” where the audience has to navigate competing information needs, interests and topic complexities. Of course, budget constraints are an ongoing challenge.
- Communications materials: Visual materials can be powerful, especially print or digital publications that show at a glance – to scale – the depths of geologic sequestration. Also, audiences continue to ask for more interactive communication materials such as video, websites, and other multimedia.
- Five steps for community engagement: 1) understand the local community context; 2) exchange information about the project; 3) identify the appropriate level of engagement; 4) discuss project risks and benefits; and 5) continue engagement through the project life cycle. As highlighted in the World Resources Institute's Guidelines for Community Engagement.
- What the public wants: Demonstrate early, project transparency and accessibility. Recent research also showed that education materials should be succinct and address 'what if' questions (eg, what if there’s a leak, what if there’s an earthquake?). Respondents were satisfied once these kinds of risks were addressed.
After the workshop I asked a couple of participants for their feedback. One of them said, “We have a strong understanding of how to communicate information about CCS to a variety of audiences – and about how to engage local communities where projects may be sited – but more resources are needed to develop next generation approaches that leverage today's technology and reach people in today's digitally-connected world.” Another commented, “It was nice to find that there is a lot of commonality.” Personally, I’m encouraged by workshops such as this. The need for increased communications continues to be an ongoing theme in all aspects of CCS, and one that must surely be addressed for ultimate project success. Also, many thanks are due to the Global CCS Institute and the Canadian Government for hosting this collaborative and beneficial forum.
For more workshop details, links to participant presentations can be found below:
Update on the Global CCS Institute’s Educational Outreach Program:
- Meade Harris, Senior Advisor – Capacity Development & Public Engagement – Americas Office, and Kirsty Anderson, Principal Manager – Public Engagement – Global CCS Institute - Educational Outreach Workshop - Focus on Alberta and Saskatchewan
Experts Perspectives on current educational outreach experiences:
- Sarah Wade, Chair of the Regional Partnership Outreach Groups – Overview of existing resources and current initiatives
- Dan Daly, Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership – PCOR Partnership educator outreach and collaborative activities with Prairie Public Broadcasting.
- Lori Gauvreau, Schlumberger - Using visualizations of geological sequestration as aids to public understanding and a tour of the sequestation.org website.
- Sarah Forbes, WRI – Guidelines for Community Engagement in Carbon Dioxide Capture, Transport, and Storage Projects & NGO perspective
Update from the ‘Creating Core Messages’ group:
- Norm Sacuta, Communications Manager – Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC)
Experience from early CCS/CCUS demonstration projects on outreach work & next steps: