Climate body warns Government that delivery of measures not happening fast enough due to planning delays

Independent council raised issues in a letter to Coalition leaders and Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien, on Tuesday

The Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) has raised concern that delivery of core measures in the Climate Action Plan is not happening fast enough, highlighting issues with the planning system that could hamper progress.

The independent body which advises the Government on climate matters raised the issues in a letter to the three Coalition leaders and Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien, on Tuesday.

Its chairwoman, Marie Donnelly, wrote: “As we approach the midpoint of the first carbon budget, the Climate Change Advisory Council remains concerned that the timelines for delivery of core measures within the Climate Action Plan are not progressing fast enough.

“In particular, we wish to highlight a number of elements of the planning system which will be crucial to address throughout the remainder of 2023.”


The letter sets out how the electricity sector has “a particularly challenging sectoral ceiling” with a target of a 75 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.

It says the quantity of planning applications necessary to achieve the Climate Action Plan 2023 targets, along with the essential expansion and upgrading of the electricity grid, “represents a significant challenge to the planning system”.

The CCAC also expressed concern that many of the older fleet of onshore wind farms are due to lose their planning consent before 2030.

Ms Donnelly wrote: “In line with the European Commission’s REPowerEU plan, barriers and administrative burdens to the extension of consents for existing wind turbines and repowering of sites should be urgently removed.”

She also said that to “support scaled up deployment of renewable electricity across the country, the Renewable Electricity Spatial Policy Framework is crucial and should be published by September 2023 at the latest”.

The letter also sets out how “sustainable residential development can reduce transport demand and can also reduce the cost of provision of low carbon services such as public transport and district heating”.

Ms Donnelly says: “The compact growth target in the current National Planning Framework is insufficiently ambitious to achieve the low carbon transition in the transport sector and more effort is required to ensure that the existing compact growth target is met across all counties, particularly in the catchment area of cities.”

The CCAC welcomed a review of the framework that is due to begin this year and urged “a better alignment with our climate goals”.

The letter also says that “addressing the poor economic incentives for urban brownfield/infill development, the foundation of compact growth, is an important support for affordable housing policy”.

On the resourcing of the planning system the CCAC said it is concerned “it will be challenging to address the many interdependencies between climate action and planning without addressing historic and structural underfunding of the planning process”.

The council supports “an urgent increase in staffing in local authority planning offices to help effectively deliver national climate policy”.

It welcomed the publication of the Draft Planning and Development Bill which aims to rationalise the legislative framework for the planning system. The CCAC, however, is “very concerned by the continuing backlog of cases awaiting a planning decision”.

The letter concludes: “The council again emphasises how fundamental the planning system is to the delivery of our climate goals and looks forward to providing any further assistance or advice as required or useful to Government.”

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he looked forward to reading the letter, adding he agreed the planning system is “probably our biggest constraint”.

“It is not being resourced,” he said. “An Bord Pleanála is now back up to a full 15 members. They have all the additional staff they said they were looking for. But they have a backlog and it is important that we get that backlog cleared.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times