The temperatures around the world are rising and this affects Ireland too. Globally the two main features of climate change are:
Ireland is also experiencing the impacts of a changing climate with the rise in the annual surface air temperature by 0.8% since 1900. In addition to temperature we are seeing increased rainfall and sea-level rise, and observing changes in the frequency of extreme weather like storms, flooding and drought. Examples of extreme weather would be Storm Ophelia in 2017 and the Beast from the East in 2018 to name two of the most impactful.
Mitigation is about changing how we live, travel, eat, heat our homes and manufacture goods so as to reduce and/or eliminate the production of harmful greenhouse gases. It also includes how we use our land. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its Summary for Policy Makers Report of 2014 defines Mitigation as "a human intervention to reduce the source or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases".
The IPCC in its Glossary defines Adaptation as "the process of adjustment to actual and expected climate and its effects.....adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities". This means dealing with the expected impacts of climate change and taking practical steps to protect homes, businesses and communities from extreme weather events. It also involves building resilience into the design of critical infrastructure like transport and energy systems, to be able to withstand large scale weather events, sea level rise, surges or coastal erosion.
National climate policy and legislation has been evolving and strengthening in recent years in terms of Ireland addressing the problem of climate change through mitigation, adaptation and other methods such as national policies.
The National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development was adopted in 2014. It established a long-term national mitigation objective of low carbon transition based on an aggregate reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of at least 80% compared to 1990 levels by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors. In parallel, an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.
This is the basis for the transition objective established in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. That act established the National Mitigation Plan (NMP) and National Adaptation Framework (NAF) both of which are designed to address the causes and consequences of climate change in Ireland. These are to be updated every 5 five years. The Act also established the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC), to provide advice to government on climate policy and review progress on achievement of targets annually.
The 2019 Climate Action Plan sets out a comprehensive approach to the implementation of climate action in Ireland across all economic sectors. This document is due to be updated in 2021 and on a yearly basis thereafter.
The Climate Act is to be amended and the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 is due to be enacted later in the year.
Ireland's first National Adaptation Framework (NAF) was published in 2018. This Framework set a strategy to reduce our vulnerability to the negative effects of climate change and how we could avail of the positive impacts.
In terms of wider national policy, both the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan are key policy instruments to facilitate the transition to a low carbon society and economy in Ireland. The Programme for Government 2020 also addressed the issue and ensured that the government being formed from those talks would keep climate change at the centre of every governmental department.
A summary of the State of Knowledge on Climate Change Impacts for Ireland (an EPA publication, 2017)