One of the greatest global challenges for this and future generations is how we address climate change. Evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal and it is extremely likely that human activity has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid- 20th century. Observations show that global average temperatures have increased by almost 1˚C since pre-industrial times. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished and sea level has risen as the concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) have increased. The projections of future global and regional climate change indicate that continued emissions of GHGs will cause further warming and changes to the climate system1. Changes in Ireland’s climate are in line with these global trends.
Climate change is already having diverse and wide ranging impacts on Ireland’s environment, society, economic and natural resources. Future impacts are predicted to include sea level rise; more intense storms and rainfall; increased likelihood and magnitude of river and coastal flooding; water shortages in summer; increased risk of new pests and diseases; adverse impacts on water quality; and changes in distribution and time of lifecycle events of plant and animal species on land and in the oceans. Against this background, strategies must be devised to reduce and manage climate change risks through a combination of mitigation and adaptation responses.
We have a limited window for real action to ensure that current and future generations can live sustainably in a low carbon and climate resilient world. The climate change challenge cuts across all sectors of society and we all need to consider how best Ireland can contribute to the solutions.
The Irish Government is taking the lead in addressing this challenge and we must ensure that there is a sustained, considered and strategic approach to incremental and permanent decarbonisation involving all of Government and society. In this regard climate action should be seen as complementary to other important strategic objectives, such as addressing air pollution impacts on human health and achieving the globally agreed 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The first National Mitigation Plan (NMP) represents an initial step to set us on a pathway to achieve the level of decarbonisation required. In this context, Ireland’s first plan will not only contain measures to address the challenge to 2020, but equally importantly will also begin the development of medium to long term options to ensure that we are well positioned to take the necessary actions in the next and future decades. The first NMP will not represent a complete roadmap to achieve the 2050 objective, but rather will represent a work in progress reflecting the reality of where we are in our decarbonisation transition.