Strategy for public participation and multi-level dialogue in the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP)

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Why should we focus on participation and multi-level dialogue for the NECP?

Italy, like other European countries, has been called upon to structure the process of updating the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) through public participation and effective multi-level dialogue, as envisaged by the Energy Union Governance Regulations and reiterated by the Commission’s Guidelines for revision of the Plan.

The policies that will be implemented by the NECP in this decade will be key to developing the infrastructure to enable the transition. This urgency requires greater accountability and awareness by all those involved and must again focus on the impacted territories and communities, particularly in a country characterised by a history of territories “sacrificed” to the general welfare, but which simultaneously wishes to detach itself from this legacy and to enhance its landscape and historical and environmental heritage.

There are many examples, including those related to the implementation of the current NECP, typical of infrastructure and environmental planning issues for which inaction, conflicting special interests, or administrative ineffectiveness have proven to be structural and cultural roadblocks. The simplest reaction when faced with management of complex problems. Typical examples are issues related to renewable authorisations that involve bureaucratic conflicts and confusion during the course of the authorisation process, leading to inevitable delays and highlighting dysfunctional planning, involvement and empowerment of participants upstream of the process. The identification within the Plan itself of a regulatory framework and a structured pathway that provides for organic involvement – enabling multi-level relationships among citizens, businesses, organisations and institutions in the joint definition of common goals – may be the key for its implementation.

In addition to being a legal requirement, therefore, participation and multi-level dialogue satisfy the need to make the policies and measures of the NECP effective and open to implementation. These must be applied with respect to the various levels of responsibility with which stakeholders participate in the Plan and its implementation, from local authorities, industry, manufacturing and civil society associations to individual citizens. The NECP could thus represent multiple visions, becoming recognised and recognisable by the players who contributed to its construction, taking ownership of its structure, content and broader purpose.

A strategy of multi-level participation and dialogue should become embedded in the very governance of the Plan, becoming an integral and substantial part of it, starting with the drafting process and during the stages of its implementation, monitoring and assessment.
Therefore, the basic requisites must be identified in order to promptly begin the process and be prepared for delivery of the final version of the updated NECP, scheduled for June 2024.


To give concrete form to the value of the structured participatory process, this paper is the result of leveraging multiple sources, skills and experiences of contributors involved in the various stages of conception and drafting of the text.

Two main stages can be identified:
Literature review;
8 semi-structured interviews;
NECP and NRRP gap analysis – How to make the process more effective
Identification of general principles.

– Round table (9 May 2023) – Discussion and debate with stakeholders;
– Finalisation and sharing of the proposal for peer review;
– Publication of the proposal.

Following STAGE 1, it was determined that in the current NECP the process of participation and implementation of multi-level dialogue was lacking, due to lack of formalisation of the process via two elements:
a. A reference framework or “governance” of participation for the NECP – such as process organisation measures in the construction, implementation and monitoring of the same;
b. Ensuring referencing of the content – how and whether the contributions received were added to the text and what their function was.
These two areas indicate room for a concrete step forward for the text to be updated by June 2024.

A proposal for the NECP

A possible proposal for governance of NECP participation was achieved through sharing and discussion within a round table composed of stakeholders from different areas and levels, held according to Chatham House rules on 9 May 2023.
This round table discussed a possible operational proposal for the NECP update, which identifies the basic requisites to be included within the text of the Plan, as a basis for the practical initiation of a process dedicated to climate and energy[1] that can unfold over the year before sending the final version of the document to Brussels in June 2024.

These basic requisites elements are:
a. Bodies and resources for managing multi-level dialogue, divided between central coordinating bodies and coordinating bodies of sector-based standing round tables. The presence of economic resources and technical assistance through the Structural Funds, as has been done in other cases, is an option to be examined;
b. Stakeholder mapping that must be part of the multi-level dialogue and involved in the NECP revision process. Defining for each participant: the competences corresponding to the thematic areas; the planning tools available that can be put “at the service” of NECP objectives; and the funds and channels of participation that already exist.
c. Participation stages and timing prior to 2024, determining the time frame and how the dialogue and participatory process should be carried out in the definition phase of the Plan, before the final version is submitted. Time frame and methods will also have to be defined for the subsequent phases of implementation, monitoring and assessment of the Plan.
d. Channels and tools for targeted participation with the control bodies and institutions, or those functional to broader and more widespread participation with the public. These also include channels and tools for disseminating information about the participatory process, increasing its visibility.
This work shows the availability of resources, time and knowledge to make the NECP a plan that reflects the needs of the country, through a participation-based path. What will be needed now is the political willingness to make it effective and efficient, to avoid the inapplicability of complex, transversal plans and strategies that are essential for the achievement of climate neutrality goals and the social, economic and industrial revitalisation that Italy needs.


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[1] Chapter 1.3 Consultations and involvement of the national bodies and the Union and results obtained

Photo by Dio Hasbi Saniskoro

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