Ireland not prepared for worsening climate, advisory council warns

Body calls for set of national indicators ‘to measure our climate resilience’

Ireland is not prepared for “today’s climate and the climate of the future”, which is set to get much worse with more frequent and extreme heatwaves, flooding and coastal surges caused by more ferocious storms, the Climate Change Advisory Council has warned.

Increased frequency of severe weather conditions such as the recent heatwave has demonstrated the need for urgent action on adaptation to ensure society has the infrastructure and services in place to respond to the impact that climate disruption is having on society, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

Adaptation requires preparation for the inevitable consequences of the climate crisis that cannot be avoided in coming years — it also includes building resilience in all sectors of the economy and throughout society.

The council welcomed the review of the National Adaptation Framework (NAF) with the independent advisory body submitting 34 recommendations to the public consultation.

READ MORE

But it warned: “The process of adapting to climate change in Ireland to date has too often been sidelined and overshadowed by a focus on mitigation [reducing carbon emissions].”

The Council has concluded that the current framework, including sectoral and local adaptation plans and strategies produced as a result of it, provide a solid foundation for adaptation, but much more needed to be done.

Calling for the revised NAF to provide for further integration with mitigation efforts, sustainable development, and disaster risk reduction, the Council recommended sectoral adaptation plans should then also be revised and updated.

In particular, the Council said additional sectoral adaptation plans for financial services, tourism, sport and the built environment require urgent attention — as does building coastal resilience.

Highlighting the need to prioritise actions and investments, the Council urged that the framework and plans under it be informed by a regular national risk assessment.

On the need for concerted adaptation action and for implementation of plans, Prof Peter Thorne, chair of the council’s adaptation committee, said: “Ireland needs to urgently take the steps required to ensure it is as resilient as it can be within a world where extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe.”

“Decision makers at Government, department and national level must be better prepared in their adaptation planning and actions so they can take account of the full range of potential changes projected,” he added.

To be effective, adaptation governance structures needed to be revised and restructured “to ensure cross cutting issues that impact multiple sectors are addressed with the Government urgently developing and monitoring a set of national indicators to measure our climate resilience and assess progress towards achieving climate-resilient development”.

Council chair Marie Donnelly added: “It is imperative that an initial adaptation budget to 2030 be set, following an assessment of what is required to make Ireland resilient by 2050 and beyond.”

“This budget must be determined in light of the social cost of climate change over at least the next 30 years and must reflect the need to prioritise funding for adaptation to a significantly greater degree than is currently the case,” she added.

The Council has submitted its detailed proposals for enhanced adaptation to Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times