Ireland publishes Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015

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Updated Thu, 22 Jan 2015 14:13:50 GMT

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly, T.D., welcomed the government’s publication of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015, which sets out the national objective of transitioning to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy in the period up to 2050.

The bill provides for the preparation, and approval by the government, of five-yearly National Low Carbon Transition and Mitigation Plans, which will set out how the national greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced, in line with both existing EU legislative requirements and wider international commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In particular, each successive National Mitigation Plan will specify the policy measures that must be adopted by each relevant minister of the government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their individual sectors, and to enable a whole-of-government approach towards achieving the national transition objective. Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions profile is predominantly made up of emissions from agriculture, transport, energy and the built environment, therefore it is anticipated that the most mitigation effort will be required in these sectors.

By providing the institutional framework to ensure that iterative policy measures are developed, approved and implemented in a timely fashion, the bill will also underpin the certainty required for policy makers and business in respect of what mitigation efforts are going to be taken up to 2020 and 2030, as well as setting the scene for future mitigation objectives beyond those timeframes up to the year 2050, at which point the Irish economy, along with most developed countries, will be required to be substantively decarbonised. Such a process will also be instrumental in identifying new economic opportunities that arise in transitioning to a low carbon economy.

In bringing forward this proposed national legislation, Ireland will also contribute – and be seen to contribute – its fair share of mitigation effort as part of global endeavours under the UNFCCC to limit the rise in average global temperature to no more than two degrees over the pre-industrial level. These endeavours, if successful, will be beneficial to everyone, but particularly developing countries, where lesser capacities to respond and adapt render them more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. “Mitigation effort is a global responsibility and no more so in respect of our collective preparation for agreement in Paris at the end of this year, however it is important that developed countries such as Ireland provide leadership in terms of their contribution and the framework underpinned by this Bill will enable such a response to be developed well into the future,” said Minister Kelly.

The bill also covers adaptation to climate change, in that it provides for the preparation, and approval by the government, of successive National Climate Change Adaptation Frameworks, which will outline the national strategy for the application of adaptation measures in different sectors as well as by local authorities in order to reduce the vulnerability of the state and citizens to the negative impacts of climate change.

As the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rises with historic emissions, adapting to the inevitable changes in climate in Ireland, such as an increased frequency of severe weather events, becomes critical. In this regard, the National Adaptation Framework will set out those sectors, such as flood defence and the protection of communication and electricity infrastructure, which will be required to develop sectoral adaptation plans to prepare for and invest wisely to minimise the likely impacts of a changing climate and extreme weather events. “It is vital that we continue to prepare appropriately for adaptation, not only in the short term, as our recent experience with Storm Rachel demonstrated, but also in terms of the long term and the provisions within this bill will facilitate that process,” added Minister Kelly.

Commenting on the publication of the bill itself, Minister Kelly further stated: “No specific climate change legislation has ever been enacted in Ireland. I intend to rectify that lacuna now to ensure that Ireland’s response to climate change is consolidated and that our long-term planning for future mitigation and adaptation is underpinned by statutorily robust operational arrangements.”