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Speech by Seán Canney T.D., Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development at the Launch of Local Authority Adaptation Strategy Development Guidelines


3 December 2018

Good morning everybody. I am very pleased to be here with you this morning to help launch the Local Authority Adaptation Strategy Development Guidelines.


As Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment I now have a direct role in overseeing the development of the Department's adaptation plans required under the National Adaptation Framework. I also have a role in supporting the development of adaptation strategies within your own sector, work which will be supported  through our newly established Climate Action Regional Offices.


Work is underway in my own Department on preparing the sectoral plans for Communications Networks and Electricity and Gas Networks ahead of the deadline of 30 September 2019 and I am also aware that many local authorities  represented here today are well advanced in their efforts to meet this deadline.

We have to act urgently to build resilience to the impacts of climate change.


The Paris Agreement commits the international community to limit global warming to no more than 2°C above preindustrial temperatures, and to strive for a target of 1.5°C. We are already seeing almost 1°C of warming since preindustrial times. The recent special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has confirmed that if the current warming rate continues, the world will reach human-induced global warming of 1.5°C around 2040. With this level of warming we will see climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth - and if we move to 2°C or beyond such risks will increase accordingly.


For Ireland the main impacts of climate change are in line with global trends - increasing temperatures, sea level rise, changing rainfall patterns with wetter winters and drier summers, and more intense storms. In terms of the latter we are all getting very familiar with the frequency of named storms and indeed we only have to cast our minds back to last week (Storm Diana) to remind us of the need to be prepared for what climate change can potentially bring to our shores.


Local Authority Adaptation Strategy Development Guidelines

The publication of these "Local Authority Adaptation Strategy Development Guidelines", a key action under the National Adaptation Framework, will assist with our efforts in addressing the challenges presented by the impacts of climate change.


Local Adaptation Guidelines were originally published in 2016 as a research project under the EPA's Climate Change Research Programme. They were revised with the assistance of the Climate Ireland research team in the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy in UCC and I would in particular like to thank Dr. Barry O'Dwyer and Dr. Stephen Flood from Climate Ireland for their respective inputs on these guidelines and later this morning you will be hearing from Stephen as he outlines the contents of the Guidelines.


The purpose of the Guidelines is to support local authorities in the development of their local climate change adaptation strategies. Through a 5 step process, they will ensure a consistent approach to adaptation planning for climate resilience across the local authorities and ensure a coherent approach between sectoral and local authority adaptation planning.


Climate Action Regional Offices

This year the Department announced funding to establish 4 Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs) around the country to drive climate action at local level. As indicated earlier the CAROs will be crucial in building on and focusing the work that has been undertaken on climate action within local government so far.


The CAROs will have a key role in supporting local authorities in the development of their adaptation strategies in line with these new Guidelines. Adaptation planning is a new challenge for the local authority sector and will require new skillsets and capacities to be developed within each local authority over time.


While most of the interaction with CAROs from the Department to date has been on climate adaptation we are also keen to ensure the CARO structure contributes to national efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions thus building on local government's existing inputs to the low carbon agenda in areas such as spatial planning, transport, biodiversity and the built environment.


At the 2018 Climate Innovation Summit in Dublin Castle last month, Minister Bruton said that he wanted to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change, not a follower.

As the Minister said - this will require a significant step change across government.


Being a leader means acting now and seizing opportunities, being a follower means the final costs of adjustment are much higher and opportunities much lower or completely lost.


This requires a clear mandate to integrate the demands of climate action into the decision making of all regulatory systems and programme evaluation across government.


Your local adaptation strategies are an opportunity to integrate adaptation and resilience into your development plans and other operations of your local authority. But it also provides a hugely valuable opportunity for local government to influence and integrate with central government through sectoral planning and regional government through the Regional Economic and Spatial Strategies. 


Costs and Impacts of Climate Change

The potential impacts and costs of climate change are significant and given my previous role at the OPW this is something I am acutely aware of; the floods of Winter 2015/16 are considered to be worst floods on record and occurred during what was also the wettest winter on record (with rainfall totals at 189% of normal). €106 million was allocated by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport alone for repairs, consisting of €8 million for the rail network, €90 million for regional and local roads and €8 million for national roads.


Storm Ophelia in 2017 necessitated a massive national emergency response, shutting down schools and Government Buildings and disrupting business across the country. At the peak of Ophelia 385,000 homes and business were without power and 109,000 homes were left without water supply. It has been reported that the cost of insurance claims due to 2017's Storm Ophelia-related damage was estimated at €45 million, with 2018's Storm Emma reported as costing Irish insurers an estimated €39 million.


Summer 2018 saw prolonged drought conditions across the country, particularly in the east of the country, severely testing our water supply infrastructure and reminded us that we also need to prepare for the impact of higher temperatures and longer dry spells in the Summer. 


Early adaptation makes economic sense; figures compiled by the OPW estimate the current cost of a 1 in 10 year flood event in Limerick City at around €4 million. Under a medium emission future scenario this figure rises to €117 million. Under a high emissions future scenario this figure rises again to €358 million. These figures are even higher for 1 in 100 and 1 in 1000 year floods. Local authorities, with their key role in flood risk management as well as in emergency responses to flood events, will understand the value of being proactive in this regard.


As the Guidelines note, delivering adaptation actions encompasses taking a wide range of actions that can be soft, green or grey and may range from simple solutions in the immediate term to large scale longer term transformational projects. Building climate resilience will require a mix of such actions and will most likely require significant interaction with key sectors such as transport, energy, communications, agriculture, health and biodiversity – something we would very much encourage from a central government perspective.

Role of Local Government

The scope therefore for local government to contribute to climate action cannot be underestimated.

  • As planning authorities, you influence where we live, where we work and how we travel and your decisions and policies will be crucial in helping to deliver low carbon and resilient communities.
  • You already work with OPW in respect of managing coastal and fluvial flooding and implementing flood risk management plans. You also coordinate the local response to severe weather events working closely with the principal response agencies and the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management.
  • You support the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, SEAI and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government on meeting national targets on energy efficiency and renewable energy in retrofitting social housing and public buildings and developing renewable energy projects. In this regard I should also note how successful local government has been in engaging the Climate Action Fund, the proposals for which were announced last week 
  • You support the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in implementing sustainable and resilient transport policies in the context of climate change, supporting moves towards sustainable modes of transport and also supporting the transition to electric vehicles.
  • You also have huge potential to engage local communities on climate action and will play a key role in helping to roll out for National Dialogue on Climate Action at the local level in 2019.


Local Government has demonstrated very effective leadership in taking forward many policy challenges in the past and the time is now right for local government to enhance its current role and provide sectoral leadership for the country in responding to climate change in terms of both mitigation and adaptation. Such leadership will enable the sector to contributing significantly to our national objective of achieving transition to a competitive, low carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050.


I look forward to working with you all over the coming period on this objective.

Thank you.

Ends ​

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