Government’s climate plan identifies 12 sectors needing ‘adaptation action’

Harris says climate change already causing adverse health effects on most vulnerable

Minister for Health Simon Harris, Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton at  launch of  progress report on Climate Action Plan. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins

Minister for Health Simon Harris, Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton at launch of progress report on Climate Action Plan. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins

 

Climate change is likely to detrimentally affect the health of every Irish individual and the extent of that harm will depend on our actions today, according to Minister for Health Simon Harris.

Without decisive adaptation action to prepare for the consequences, “climate change will have profound impacts on the health and wellbeing of our people, on the smooth delivery of our health and social care services, and on our critical infrastructure,” Mr Harris said on Thursday.

It was already causing adverse health effects on the most vulnerable, including older people, children, those with pre-existing conditions and people working in the outdoors, he said. This was due to increased air pollution and the rising threat of skin cancer as well as altered weather patterns, such as extreme heat or cold snaps.

Mr Harris was speaking at a briefing at the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin attended by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and six Ministers to outline progress on the Government’s climate plan. It coincided with publication of adaptation plans for 12 key sectors designed to ensure Ireland is adequately prepared for the inevitable effects of climate disruption.

The sectors are water quality, water services infrastructure, flood risk management, health, agriculture, forestry, biodiversity, built and archaeological heritage, transport infrastructure, electricity and gas networks, seafood, and communications networks. Seven government departments are required to oversee their implementation.

Key risks

Each plan identifies key risks facing the sector and the approach being taken to address these and to build resilience. They are also important in delivering “Ireland’s commitments to help protect the planet”, said Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton.

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy said extreme weather events could affect water quality and supply infrastructure in different ways. A severe drought in the summer of 2018 exhausted water supplies, while heavier than anticipated rainfall in the summer of 2019 overwhelmed parts of the wastewater treatment network.

The adaption plan overseen by his department would make the water sector more resilient, he added, while many actions were already in train such as a river basin management system and investment in waste-water treatment facilities.

By the end of the century, climate change is likely to become the most significant driver of biodiversity loss, said Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan.

“Increases in temperature will change the timing of life-cycle events and the distribution of species. The physical impact of more intense storms and increased winter/spring rainfall will accelerate the degradation of habitats that are already compromised by unsustainable practices.”

Actions in her department’s adaptation plans were focussed on restoring biodiversity, including peatlands, and enhancing pollinators.