Climate Participation Initiative

Promoting public involvement in climate action

Broad support and the active involvement of citizens – public participation – are essential to mobilise climate action at scale. When people feel part of the design and implementation of climate policies, they are more likely to be adopted.

Public support helps create the political space and pressure for policymakers to deliver on their promises. It can also encourage individual and community behaviour change.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation promotes investment in public participation, aiming to support a thriving civil society in Portugal and beyond, and ensure that all of society gets to contribute and shape the sustainability agenda, particularly local communities.

The initiative focuses on projects delivered by municipalities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), two groups who are well placed to facilitate local and regional change but frequently lack the time and resources to do so.

Municipalities can often lead the way in designing climate policies. They operate in close connection with citizens and have an energy and pragmatism to unlock change. A capable NGO sector is also critical and can work with others to catalyse system-wide progress.

The projects were selected from an open call for public participation projects, which took place between December 2023 and February 2024. 139 entities applied – representing the depth and breadth of climate mobilisation projects across mainland Portugal and the autonomous regions.

The open call was launched after the Climate Action and Public Participation conference, which brought together around 100 representatives from municipalities and civil society organisations, and 600 online participants.

Cohort of Climate Participation Projects

Through an open call, 11 projects have been selected to receive funding for initiatives that will mobilise greater public participation in climate action and decision-making in Portugal.

The projects have a common aim of contributing to sustainable local development, using participatory and capacity-building approaches to involve under-represented groups in the local climate agenda. The initiative aims to generate new evidence of what works and what could be replicated and scaled.


Participation in local climate plans

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To bring the population closer to local decisions on climate action by holding a Citizens' Climate Assembly. Participants will be selected by lottery and will have the opportunity to learn from experts, then deliberate and produce recommendations within the framework of municipal climate policy.

Promoter: Vila Franca de Xira Municipality
Partners: Citizens’ Forum – Association
Location: Lisbon Metropolitan Area (Vila Franca de Xira)
Target audience: Local population
Duration: 11 months
Funding: 30,000.00 €

Climate Action Platform

To implement a local participatory budgeting process for climate issues, identifying proposals that fit with the vision and strategic objectives of the Torres Vedras Municipal Climate Action Plan. The aim is to move from plan to action, mobilising civil society and strengthening the implementation of the plan, complementing the decarbonisation and climate change adaptation actions already underway.

Promoter: Torres Vedras Municipality
Partners: Faculty of Science and Technology of NOVA University Lisbon; Polytechnic of Leiria.
Location: West Coast (Torres Vedras)
Target audience: Local environmental, social and recreational organisations, among others; citizens living in the municipality.
Duration: 12 months
Funding: 30,000.00 €

Climate Mobilisation

In a municipality with a strong industrial tradition, where around 65% of Portuguese furniture is produced, the aim is to promote the adoption of more sustainable practices (from the extraction of raw materials to waste management) among companies in this sector, which need to meet the growing demands of sustainability-conscious consumers.

Promoter: Municipality of Paredes
Partners: Faculty of Letters of the University of Porto (FLUP); Visionarium Association.
Location: Porto Metropolitan Area (Paredes)
Target audience: Workers in the furniture production industry in Paredes.
Duration: 12 months
Funding: 29,920.48 €

Organisations in Transition – Transforming the Economy from the Community Up

To create spaces for conversations between the municipality and the community, promoting a positive and inspiring vision for the local economy. The project will achieve this by implementing a participatory process to produce community recommendations for the Municipal Climate Action Plan.

Promoter: Climate Center – Póvoa de Varzim Municipality
Partners: AdEPorto – Porto Energy Agency; Póvoa de Varzim Business Association; Horpozim – Horticultural Business Association; MAPADI – Movement to Support Parents and Friends of the Intellectually Disabled.
Location: Porto Metropolitan Area (Póvoa de Varzim)
Target audience: Companies and organisations in the social and solidarity sector.
Duration: 11 months
Funding: 28,052.00 €

Tavira + Neutra

To promote a broad process of public participation among citizens and civil society organisations in the drafting and implementation of Tavira's Municipal Climate Action Plan.

Promoter: Tavira Municipality
Partners: Associação Oficina de Planeamento e Participação
Location: Algarve (Tavira)
Target audience: Under-represented groups (rural population; riverside communities; young people; seniors; foreign communities; residents of municipal public housing) and strategic groups (local economic agents).
Duration: 12 months
Funding: 28,677.34 €

Participation in marine and coastal ecosystem restoration

CRIA – Carbono da Ria

To promote citizen science with a focus on the climate-ocean relationship, generating knowledge about the blue carbon stocks of the Ria Formosa Natural Park and mobilising its residents to protect the environmental values of this protected area.

Promoter: BlueZ C Institute – Association for Marine Conservation and Carbon Economy
Partners: Co-management Committee of the Ria Formosa Natural Park
Location: Algarve (Ria Formosa Natural Park)
Target audience: Local population
Duration: 12 months
Funding: 30,000.00 €

Women of the Ria: leadership in the sustainable conservation of Culatra Island's seagrass meadows

To facilitate training sessions and participatory discussion on the importance of seagrass meadows, with the aim of drawing up a proposal for a community-initiated protection zone.

Promoter: Sciaena – Association of Marine Sciences and Cooperation
Partners: Faro Municipality; Culatra Island Residents' Association; Centro de Ciências do Mar (CCMAR); OCEAN ALIVE – Cooperative for creative marine education.
Location: Algarve (Ria Formosa Natural Park)
Target audience: Women from Culatra Island who harvest shellfish.
Duration: 12 months
Funding: 27,521.58 €

Participation in river ecosystem restoration

Guarda-Rios Lourinhã: Monitoring, Action and Awareness Raising for the Rio Grande and Rio do Toxofal

To bring the population of Lourinhã closer to the local rivers, promoting community involvement in the first river monitoring project in the municipality, through various participatory initiatives.

Promoter: Lourambi – Association for the Defense of the Environment of the Municipality of Lourinhã
Partners: Municipality of Lourinhã; Jornal Alvorada; Rádio Clube da Lourinhã.
Location: West Coast (Lourinhã)
Target audience: Young people from Lourinhã (up to 16 years old); seniors (whether or not they are members of the municipality's senior clubs); "fluvial" stakeholders.
Duration: 12 months
Funding: 16,596.00 €

River Restoration as a form of Climate Action – A participatory process in the Alviela Basin

To include the older population in community participation strategies to promote knowledge about river restoration and rehabilitation processes in the Alviela River Basin.

Promoter: GEOTA – Group for the Study of Spatial Planning and the Environment
Partners: Municipality of Santarém; Municipality of Alcanena; Municipality of Torres Novas; Guarda Rios Collective.
Location: Central Region (Alcanena, Santarém and Torres Novas)
Target audience: Elderly population of the Alviela River Basin.
Duration: 12 months
Funding: 29,999.72 €

Promoting community resilience

Climathon – Participatory challenges for climate action

To increase the resilience of local territories to climate change, through a methodology of participation and civic involvement based on training workshops for different target audiences.

Promoter: ZERO – Sustainable Earth System Association
Partners: Municipality of Cuba; Municipality of Silves.
Location: Alentejo (Cuba) and Algarve (Silves)
Target audience: Local authority officials; citizens involved in local civic movements; young people from the local community.
Duration: 12 months
Funding: 30,000.00 €

Promoting positive climate narratives

Stories from the Green Heart of Portugal

To create participatory videos, in collaboration with the elderly population of three rural villages deeply affected by the 2017 fires, to stimulate debate on climate action. Young people from these villages will also be trained to facilitate the sharing of stories that capture the life and culture of the region over generations.

Promoter: MultiCulti Association – Mediterranean Cultures
Partners: Municipality of Sertã; Troviscal Parish Council.
Location: Center Region (Villages of Macieira, Amioso and Vale do Laço and Vila da Sertã)
Target audience: Young and elderly people from the three villages.
Duration: 12 months
Funding: 29,169.00 €


The projects were selected by an independent Jury, who were looking for proposals that would meet some or all of the following objectives:

  • Promote public consultation and participation in climate plans;
  • Develop and test communication and influencing strategies to increase public participation;
  • Prioritise under-represented audiences and those most affected by climate change;
  • Address a specific engagement challenge;
  • Produce and share new evidence and data on the most effective strategies;
  • Work in partnership with other sectors and stakeholders.

In addition to funding, the Foundation will provide the projects with capacity-building and monitoring, evaluation and learning support over the 12 months of the initiative.

The Foundation recognises that there is interest across Portugal in increasing public participation in climate action. In addition to funding the cohort of 11 projects, it will programme activities designed to foster wider knowledge exchange and a community of organisations championing public participation.

Evidence and lessons learnt will be disseminated by the entities and the Foundation to encourage scaling or replication of effective approaches.

Updated on 10 may 2024

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