National climate change policy
The extent of the challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in line with our EU and international commitments, is well understood by Government, as reflected in the National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development, published in April 2014, and in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. The National Policy Position provides a high-level policy direction for the adoption and implementation by Government of plans to enable the State to move to a low carbon economy by 2050. Statutory authority for the plans is set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015.
The evolution of climate policy in Ireland will be an iterative process based on the adoption by Government of a series of national plans over the period to 2050. Greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation to the impacts of climate change are to be addressed in parallel national plans – respectively through National Mitigation Plans and National Climate Change Adaptation Frameworks.
Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015
Ireland’s national policy in response to climate change is determined, in part, by legislation. In particular, Ireland’s first-ever dedicated climate change law, the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, provides for the making of:
- five-yearly National Mitigation Plans to specify the policy measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- a National Adaptation Framework to specify the national strategy for the application of adaptation measures in different sectors and by local authorities to reduce the vulnerability of the State to the negative effects of climate change.
The Act also establishes the Climate Change Advisory Council to advise ministers and the government on climate change matters.
National Mitigation Plan
Work is currently underway on developing a low carbon plan, the National Mitigation Plan, the primary objective of which will be to track implementation of measures already underway and identify additional measures in the longer term to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and progress the overall national low carbon transition agenda to 2050. The first iteration of the National Mitigation Plan will place particular focus on putting the necessary measures in place to address the challenge to 2020 but also in terms of planning ahead to ensure that appropriate policies and measures will be in place beyond that.
The Plan will incorporate sectoral mitigation measures to reduce greenhouse gases, to be adopted by relevant Ministers with responsibility for key sectors, including agriculture, transport, energy and the built environment.
A brief description of the envisaged focus of each sector in terms of the development of their sectoral mitigation measures is set out below.
The electricity generation sector will focus on addressing emissions associated with the production of electricity and will include ensuring that new technologies can be ready for incorporation into Ireland’s electricity system and that the cost of existing technologies can be lowered.
The built environment sector will focus on the role of energy efficiency and use of renewable energies, in both residential and non-residential buildings.
The transport sector will focus on the development of a cost effective policy platform for reducing emissions and increasing energy efficiency across all modes.
The agriculture sector will focus on pathways to carbon neutrality and aim to balance the need to reduce emissions with the economic and social objective of promoting the sustainable development of a rural economy.
Climate Change Adaptation
Climate Change Adaptation refers to how we plan for the negative effects of climate change and taking suitable action to prevent or minimize damage caused by climate change. It also includes consideration of where we might avail of potential positive opportunities that may arise from climate change. Well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives later. Adaptation is a long term process and will need to be taken into account by several sectors including agriculture, energy, forestry, heritage, transport and flood defence in order to minimize the economic and social impacts on the country.
Climate change will create new vulnerabilities for Ireland and worsen existing ones. Some level of uncertainty will always exist regarding the exact impacts climate change will have on Ireland however there is sufficient data currently to enable Ireland to start preparing effective adaptation measures to address the likely predicted impacts of Climate Change now.
For Ireland, climate change impacts are projected to increase in the coming decades and could include the following:
- sea level rise;
- more intense storms and rainfall events;
- increased likelihood and magnitude of river and coastal flooding;
- water shortages in summer in the east of the country;
- adverse impacts on water quality; and
- changes in distribution of plant and animal species on land and in the oceans
National Climate Change Adaptation Framework
Ireland’s first National Climate Change Adaptation Framework(NCCAF) , which was published in December 2012, aims to ensure that adaptation actions are taken across key sectors and also at local level to reduce Ireland's vulnerability to climate change. The NCCAF requires the development and implementation of sectoral and local adaptation plans which will form part of the national response to the impacts of climate change. Each relevant Government Department (or State Agency, where appropriate) are required to prepare adaptation plans for their sectors. 12 Sectors were identified in total including Transport, Flood Defence, Agriculture and Energy.
The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 puts the development of National Climate Change Adaptation Frameworks and Sectoral Adaptation Plans on a statutory basis. Under the act the first statutory National Climate Change Adaptation Framework has to be approved by Government under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 by 9 December 2017 and will be reviewed at least every 5 years after that. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government are responsible for developing the new framework.
Following approval of the statutory National Adaptation Framework, Section 6 of the Act requires the Government to request all relevant Government Ministers to prepare sectoral adaptation plans covering the relevant sectors under their remit within a specified time period.
Further and more detailed Information on the predicted impacts of climate change on Ireland and on a range of adaptation options for Ireland is available on Climate Ireland.