The four Dublin local authorities – Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Fingal County Council and South Dublin County Council – have recently produced A Draft Strategy Towards Climate Change Action Plans, in association with Dublin’s energy agency, Codema. This is the first time that neighbouring local authorities in Ireland have come together to help address national and EU climate change targets.The Dublin region is central to Ireland’s development, and with an increasing population comes a greater responsibility to tackle the effects of climate change that are largely caused by human activity. The strategy is the first step towards developing collaborative, transboundary Dublin climate change action plans that will help to prevent the harmful activities that are releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and limit the impact of the effects that are inevitable. These action plans will be developed and finalised throughout 2017 and 2018, with one action plan developed for each local authority region. It is important to note that only actions that can be directly controlled by the local authorities (or actions that the local authorities can influence, at least) will be included in this process.

Why action is needed

Ireland has an EU-proposed national binding target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by the year 2030, relative to its 2005 emissions, under the EU 2030 emissions targets published by the European Commission in July 2016. Ireland has also received some margins for flexibility: some 4 per cent flexibility through emissions trading and a 5.6 per cent flexibility from land use (in agriculture), which means a reduction of at least 20.4 per cent. For Dublin, this target effectively translates into challenging reductions in fossil-fuel use for transport (petrol/diesel) and for heating buildings (gas/oil). EU requirements and the commitment given by the EU member states at the UN 21st annual Conference of Parties (COP21) to reduce GHG emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 have underpinned the enactment of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 in Ireland. This act has two main aims: the creation of a national mitigation plan to reduce or prevent greenhouse emissions, and the development of a national adaptation framework to reduce the negative effects of climate change. The National Adaptation Framework and National Mitigation Plan put a statutory obligation on local authorities to create their own local adaptation framework and mitigation plan for their own area. The Dublin Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Action Plans will therefore comply with these obligations. Another influence on the forthcoming action plans is the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. The four Dublin local authorities (DLAs) have either joined or are in the process of joining this initiative. Covenant of Mayors signatories give a voluntary commitment to reduce CO2 emissions in their region by 40 per cent by 2030.

Seven key areas

The DLAs have identified seven focus areas as having the greatest potential to help the move towards a zero-carbon society and adapt to the effects of climate change. These are: citizen and stakeholder engagement, planning, energy, transport, water, waste, and finally ecosystems and biodiversity.
  1. Citizen and stakeholder engagement
If we want to be serious about addressing climate change, we need to involve and engage citizens from the very start. We need to equip citizens with the right information to make informed decisions, and assist and empower them to play their part in Dublin’s transition to a low-carbon, energy-smart region. Similarly, business and industry stakeholders need to be engaged, and the advantages of becoming low carbon or carbon neutral in their activities effectively communicated to them. Also, they need to be made aware that there is a growing market for low carbon or carbon neutral services in Ireland. Potential citizen and stakeholder engagement action areas may include:
  • The roll out of regional public climate awareness programmes;
  • Encourage citizens to become ‘prosumers’ of their own energy;
  • Involve citizens in more workshops and focus groups on the topic of climate change;
  • Actively reference citizens’ involvement when creating and implementing action plans and local development plans;
  • Promote the advantages of becoming low carbon or carbon neutral to businesses; and,
  • Promote green tourism and business, eg. cycling tours, food co-ops and local markets.
  1. Planning
Spatial planning should play a crucial and central role in both short-term and long-term climate change adaptation and mitigation measures. The DLAs will continue to create increasingly ambitious planning policy in order to address the growing climate change challenges and will examine many of the following areas in developing the action plans:
  • Explore the possibility of energy masterplans for appropriate new development zones;
  • Ensure development plan design guidance and standards support climate change mitigation/adaptation;
  • Use planning policy to promote near zero energy buildings for new developments;
  • Use planning policy to promote optimal connection to new low-carbon district heating networks;
  • Promote and integrate green infrastructure strategies into all regional and local planning policies;
  • Ensure that appropriate engineering and environmental sections are involved at planning stage;
  • Develop a regional emissions inventory; and,
  • Ensure new developments are located close to public transport and are well-served by walking and cycling facilities.
  1. Energy
Energy use accounts for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions in Dublin and, as such, is central to local authorities’ plans to tackle climate change. Ireland is 90 per cent reliant on fossil fuels, for directly powering transport and machinery, and indirectly generating electricity and heat. Some 85 per cent of the fossil fuels used in 2014 were imported into the country, at a cost of €5.7 billion. This contributes to the global rise in greenhouse gases and the subsequent increase in temperature that is changing weather patterns and sea levels. Therefore in the developing the action plans, the DLAs will look at possible action areas in energy such as:
  • Reinforce energy-efficient design at project development stage;
  • Support and facilitate low-carbon district heating networks;
  • Move towards near-zero-energy in council new-build buildings, in line with EU policy;
  • Engage with utility and regulatory bodies to help citizens generate, use and sell their own energy;
  • Evaluate the use of energy performance contracts in council buildings;
  • Assess potential for council-led renewable energy projects;
  • Make Dublin’s energy supply more secure through increased use of local resources; and,
  • Ensure new energy infrastructure is climate resilient.
  1. Transport
Transport is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Dublin. A sustainable transport system is essential to reduce these greenhouse gas emissions. Vehicles that run on fossil fuels not only release CO2 into the atmosphere, but also release other polluting materials that are harmful to the public’s health. Buses are the most popular form of public transport in Dublin, so prioritising energy efficient buses, low carbon fuels and user-friendly route options should be to the fore of any sustainable transport plan. Examples of the local authority action areas will include:
  • Promote high-density development along public transport corridors through close collaboration with planning departments;
  • Upgrade the councils’ fleets to more sustainable and energy-efficient vehicles;
  • Work with ESB ecars to help facilitate a network of electrical charge-points,
  • Continue to develop efficient traffic management systems;
  • Place walking and cycling at the top of the transport hierarchy; and,
  • Expand walking and cycle networks, such as the Dublin Bikes scheme.
  1. Water
Climate change has an effect both on the ability to deliver water services and on flood events. It also appears to be playing a central role in the increased risk of flooding in Dublin. The average sea level in Dublin Bay is recorded as rising by over 120mm in the last 16 years, which is twice the global average. The possible areas that the local authorities will examine in developing the action plans include:
  • Plan for flood adaptation for the next 50-100 years using the natural environment, including using natural ecosystems to attenuate water;
  • Increase flood awareness in Dublin;
  • Advise the public on how to best protect their properties from flooding;
  • Liaise with Irish Water in order to plan for impacts on drinking water supplies;
  • Create flood partnerships with residents’ associations in the areas most at risk of flooding;
  • Ensure appropriate engineering input for drainage solutions at the pre-planning stage; and,
  • Promote the inclusion of SuDS in existing and new developments.
  1. Waste
The waste sector is a relatively minor source of greenhouse gases globally and because of this, it is often overlooked in climate change mitigation and adaption discussions. However, moving to a more sustainable model of waste prevention and material use has strong potential to transform Dublin’s waste sector from a minor cause of climate change to a major solution in preventing the creation of greenhouse gases in the first place. The following actions will help to result GHGs in the waste sector, and will be examined further in developing the action plans:
  • Move towards a circular waste economy model;
  • Encourage collaborative methods of consumption ;
  • Increase public awareness of recycling and collaborative consumption options ;
  • Work with relevant organisations and the clean-tech sector to develop a vibrant secondary materials market;
  • Collaborate with the business community to integrate resource efficiency and eco-design considerations into their operations;
  • Participate in events organised by the Regional Waste Offices.
  1. Ecosystems and biodiversity
An ecosystem refers to the relationships between different species, their habitats and their local, non-living environment (soils, geology, hydrology, microclimate, etc). It is the smallest unit of a living system which is functionally independent. Biodiversity refers to the variety of species of plant, animal and micro-organisms in a given area and includes all varieties of ecosystems. Both are sensitive to the impacts of climate change. Climate change can affect the species composition of habitats, exacerbate the spread of climate-related invasive species, and disrupt the balances which exist between the flowering times of plants, lifecycles of insects, and the feeding, breeding, migratory and hibernation times of species. This chapter in the local authority action plans may include the following action areas:
  • Create effective strategies for controlling climate-related invasive alien species;
  • Explore the use of ecosystem services assessments to inform future policies and decisions;
  • Facilitate, develop and implement green infrastructure strategies to promote adaptation and mitigation;
  • Implement the Biodiversity Conservation and Research Programme of the Dublin Bay Biosphere Partnership;
  • Build resilience in natural ecosystems by retaining and rehabilitating key biodiversity elements as part of local biodiversity action plans;
  • Increase tree and hedgerow planting to increase carbon storage potential, reduce urban heating effect, and increase soil water retention;
  • Review, update and implement Biodiversity Action Plans across the Dublin region;
  • Promote green agricultural processes and engage with farmers through education/training programmes.

Next steps

On behalf of the DLAs, Codema recently facilitated a non-statutory public consultation process for the draft strategy, which ran from September-October 2016. Between now and the first half of 2017, Codema will work with the DLAs to develop baselines for each local authority area, and through a series of DLA working groups and with collaboration between the DLAs and stakeholders, a set of baselines, actions, indicators and targets will be developed in each of the seven focus areas. Codema will also help the local authorities to organise and promote public workshops during this period so that citizens can have direct input into the development of the actions and targets that will feature in the action plans. In the second half of 2017, the actions will be planned and costed, along with the development of a strategic environmental assessment and screening for an appropriate assessment. When the action plans are written, they will go out to public consultation in 2018 before they are finalised later that year. For further information and to keep up to date on this process, please visit Author: Suzanne Fitzpatrick, communications manager at Codema - Dublin's Energy Agency