Seán Canney T.D., Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development launched the Local Authority Adaptation Strategy Development Guidelines today. In his speech the Minister said “The publication of these “Local Authority Adaptation Strategy Development Guidelines”, a key action under the National Adaptation Framework, will assist with our efforts in addressing the challenges presented by the impacts of climate change.
Local Adaptation Guidelines were originally published in 2016 as a research project under the EPA’s Climate Change Research Programme. They were revised with the assistance of the Climate Ireland research team in the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy in UCC.
The purpose of the Guidelines is to support local authorities in the development of their local climate change adaptation strategies. Through a 5 step process, they will ensure a consistent approach to adaptation planning for climate resilience across the local authorities and ensure a coherent approach between sectoral and local authority adaptation planning.
Climate Action Regional Offices
This year the Department announced funding to establish 4 Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs) around the country to drive climate action at local level. As indicated earlier the CAROs will be crucial in building on and focusing the work that has been undertaken on climate action within local government so far. The CAROs will have a key role in supporting local authorities in the development of their adaptation strategies in line with these new Guidelines. Adaptation planning is a new challenge for the local authority sector and will require new skillsets and capacities to be developed within each local authority over time. While most of the interaction with CAROs from the Department to date has been on climate adaptation we are also keen to ensure the CARO structure contributes to national efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions thus building on local government’s existing inputs to the low carbon agenda in areas such as spatial planning, transport, biodiversity and the built environment.
At the 2018 Climate Innovation Summit in Dublin Castle last month, Minister Bruton said that he wanted to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change, not a follower. As the Minister said – this will require a significant step change across government. Being a leader means acting now and seizing opportunities, being a follower means the final costs of adjustment are much higher and opportunities much lower or completely lost. This requires a clear mandate to integrate the demands of climate action into the decision making of all regulatory systems and programme evaluation across government.
Your local adaptation strategies are an opportunity to integrate adaptation and resilience into your development plans and other operations of your local authority. But it also provides a hugely valuable opportunity for local government to influence and integrate with central government through sectoral planning and regional government through the Regional Economic and Spatial Strategies.
Costs and Impacts of Climate Change
The potential impacts and costs of climate change are significant. Early adaptation makes economic sense; figures compiled by the OPW estimate the current cost of a 1 in 10 year flood event in Limerick City at around €4 million. Under a medium emission future scenario this figure rises to €117 million. Under a high emissions future scenario this figure rises again to €358 million. These figures are even higher for 1 in 100 and 1 in 1000 year floods. Local authorities, with their key role in flood risk management as well as in emergency responses to flood events, will understand the value of being proactive in this regard.
As the Guidelines note, delivering adaptation actions encompasses taking a wide range of actions that can be soft, green or grey and may range from simple solutions in the immediate term to large scale longer term transformational projects. Building climate resilience will require a mix of such actions and will most likely require significant interaction with key sectors such as transport, energy, communications, agriculture, health and biodiversity.
Role of Local Government
The scope for local government to contribute to climate action cannot be underestimated.
- As planning authorities, you influence where we live, where we work and how we travel and your decisions and policies will be crucial in helping to deliver low carbon and resilient communities.
- You already work with OPW in respect of managing coastal and fluvial flooding and implementing flood risk management plans. You also coordinate the local response to severe weather events working closely with the principal response agencies and the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management.
- You support the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, SEAI and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government on meeting national targets on energy efficiency and renewable energy in retrofitting social housing and public buildings and developing renewable energy projects. In this regard I should also note how successful local government has been in engaging the Climate Action Fund, the proposals for which were announced last week
- You support the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in implementing sustainable and resilient transport policies in the context of climate change, supporting moves towards sustainable modes of transport and also supporting the transition to electric vehicles.
- You also have huge potential to engage local communities on climate action and will play a key role in helping to roll out for National Dialogue on Climate Action at the local level in 2019.