Planning for Climate Change adaptation now essential for Ireland’s social & economic resilience – EPA publishes guidance for local authorities

Date released: May 25 2016

The EPA has today published Guidelines to make it easier for local authorities to plan for the inevitable consequences of climate change. The Guidelines were officially launched by Denis Naughten, TD, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in Athlone today.

Speaking at the launch, Laura Burke, Director General of the EPA said,

“Climate change is now with us and is having a direct effect on people’s lives, our society and our economy.  The flooding in the Shannon region and other parts of Ireland during this past winter shows just how vulnerable we are to extreme rainfall events which are projected to increase in the coming years and decades.  We have to act now to reduce such vulnerabilities and to protect ourselves from the impacts of climate change.  Our local authorities have a key role to play through the preparation and implementation of local climate adaptation strategies.” 

Laura Burke went on to say,

“Simply cleaning up after flood and storm events is no longer enough. We must now plan to adapt our economy, society and environment to deal with the reality of climate change and to manage the risks it poses to our way of life, livelihoods and wellbeing.”

According to Dr Frank McGovern, EPA Chief Climate Scientist,

“The development of local authority-level climate change adaptation strategies needs to start with addressing current vulnerabilities, and also take a  longer-term perspective of specific challenges that exists at local levels for communities and infrastructure This research work, in combination with other EPA-managed Climate Change research, has produced  very practical guidance for local authorities to help them plan for a better future.”

The Guidelines were prepared by scientists at University College Cork’s Environmental Research Institute.  Their research, funded by the EPA, will assist Local Authorities in devising their Adaptation plans which in turn will support the implementation of the National Adaptation Framework, and associated international commitments.  The guidance in this published research, which is based on international best practice, EU Adaptation Guidelines and extensive stakeholder engagement, can be used by a local authority to assess the adaptation fitness and coherence of its spatial plans and the other plans and policies under its remit. The guidelines follow a step wise process to adaptation planning and subscribe to an adaptive risk management approach.  They can be used in conjunction with the EPA funded climate information portal “Climate Ireland”.

The research report, Local Authority Adaptation Strategy Development Guidelines, is available on the EPA website. 


Notes to Editors:

Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation: There are two key responses to Climate Change. The first – and critically urgent – is Mitigation.  This involves tackling the causes of Climate Change and reducing the release of greenhouse gases (renewable energy, insulation, sustainable transport, emissions trading, etc.). Mitigation also deals with land-use issues in so far as they can contribute to storing or sinking carbon and offsetting releases (e.g. forestry, peatland preservation).  The second main response is Adaptation, . Adaptation seeks to identify vulnerabilities to current climate conditions and to actions to reduce these  thereby increasing resilience to current extremes and future changes in these  as a result of climate change, including, for example,  flood defence, infrastructural integrity, droughts or modified agricultural systems.  Mitigation and adaptation also provide opportunities that can be capitalised on, for example, ‘green growth’.  

Climate Action & Low Carbon Development Act: The Climate Action & Low Carbon Development Act which was signed into law in December 2015 requires the government to prepare a national Climate Change adaptation plan called the National Adaptation Framework.  This framework will specify adaptation measures required in key government departments (sectors) such as transport, energy, agriculture, but also measures required by Local Government.

In December 2015 in Paris, 195 nations agreed the text of a global UN Climate Change agreement. One of the crucial aspects of this agreement was a call to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with climate impacts through Adaptation measures, and the requirement that nations submit adaptation communications to the UN, in which they detail their adaptation priorities, support needs and plans. The National Adaptation Framework as required in the Climate Action & Low Carbon Development Act 2015 will, by December 2017, specify measures required by Sectors and Local Authorities in order to reduce the vulnerability of the State to the negative effects of climate change and to avail of positive effects of climate change as may occur. 

EPA Research: The national environmental research programme, managed by the EPA and funded by government, seeks to develop and use knowledge, evidence and solutions to protect and improve our natural environment and human health.   EPA Research has increased national understanding of our environment, the challenges it faces and responses to these. It has also developed high quality research capacity and supported innovation that is internationally respected. EPA Research is targeted to address the needs of key governmental and non-governmental stakeholders and also encourages the researcher community to engage with these stakeholders. EPA Research has provided integrated solutions for many of the complex environmental challenges facing Ireland.  See the EPA research strategy and EPA Climate Change research activity on the EPA website. 

Potential impacts of Climate Change for Ireland: Ireland’s climate is changing.  The scale and rate of change is consistent with global and regional trends. These changes are projected to continue and increase over the coming decades.  Winters are projected to become wetter and summers drier, while extreme events are expected to become more intense.  In addition, rising sea levels will stress coastal communities and critical infrastructure.  To date, climate change has played a role in the occurrence of heatwaves across Europe; more moisture in the atmosphere has contributed to intense downpours and unprecedented flooding; and rising sea levels have contributed to waves breaking over the streets and homes of coastal dwellers during Atlantic storms.  Such events present a risk of key infrastructure and services failing irrevocably.