I propose to take Questions Nos. 235 and 238 together.
The challenges presented by the impacts of climate change are unprecedented, both in terms of their potential scale and the transformation required to prepare for them.
Ireland’s first statutory National Adaptation Framework was approved by Government in December 2017, and was published and laid before the Oireachtas on 19 January 2018 in line with Section 6(5) of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 (the Climate Act). The Framework sets out the context to ensure Local Authorities, regions and sectors can assess the key risks and vulnerabilities of climate change, implement climate resilience actions, and ensure climate adaptation considerations are mainstreamed into all local, regional and national policy making. It includes a number of key actions and supporting objectives.
Under the Framework, seven Government Departments - or Agencies, where appropriate - with responsibility for the twelve priority sectors identified in the Framework will be required to prepare sectoral adaptation plans in line with the requirements of Sections 5, 6 and 7 of the Climate Act and the policies laid out in the Framework.
The Framework does not identify specific locations or propose adaptation measures or projects in relation to sectors, such as specific measures in relation to flood relief and drainage. Respecting the principle of subsidiarity, detailed adaptation measures will be developed across sectors and Local Government, in accordance with the Framework.
Under the Climate Act responsibility for the development of sectoral adaptation plans, and the prioritisation of the actions within them, rests with the lead Government Minister responsible for developing the plan. For example, the Framework provides that the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works will prepare a statutory sectoral adaptation plan on flood risk management.
It should also be noted that under the non-statutory 2012 National Climate Change Adaptation Framework, which has now been superseded by the National Adaptation Framework, four draft sectoral plans covering five sectors have already been developed, including for flood risk management, agriculture and forestry, transport, and the electricity and gas networks. These plans will be reviewed and updated in line with the requirements of the new statutory National Adaptation Framework.
Local understanding is also crucial to getting adaptation right and in this regard Local Authorities will be preparing their own adaptation strategies under the Framework. In publishing the Framework last month, I also announced a funding commitment from my Department of €10 million over five years to establish four Local Authority Regional Climate Action Offices. These will underpin a risk-based approach to climate action at the local and regional level and will provide a coherent and coordinated response to climate change, both in terms of adaptation and mitigation. The Regional Climate Action Offices will be operated by a lead Local Authority in four different regions grouped according to shared climate change risks. The establishment of these offices will enable a more coordinated engagement across the whole of Government and will help build on the experience and expertise which exists across the sector.
Ireland already has a number of resources in place to assist with adaptation planning, including an online resource and guidelines for both key sectors and Local Authorities. As set out in the Framework I will be putting in place arrangements so as to further develop the online climate information platform, Climate Ireland, which provides tools to assist both sectors and Local Authorities in planning and prioritising adaptation actions. While the platform will provide operational support to the key sectors concerned it will also serve as an educational and awareness resource for the private sector and civil society who also have a key role to play in enabling our climate resilient transition.
Furthermore, existing guidelines will be strengthened under the Framework in order to support Local Authorities and sectors in preparing their adaptation strategies and plans respectively, so as to ensure that a coherent and consistent approach to adaptation planning is adopted at national, regional and local levels.
Adaptation planning is an iterative process, with the National Adaptation Framework and the sectoral plans prepared under it to be reviewed at least once every five years in line with the Climate Act. This will ensure that we adopt a dynamic approach to adaptation planning which is informed by the latest scientific evidence thus enabling Departments, Agencies and Local Authorities to modify or escalate adaptation actions as appropriate.
In the coming weeks I will be seeking Government approval to request the key sectors to start preparing their respective adaptation plans, thus initiating another key step in developing a whole-of-Government approach to how we will achieve climate resilience under this new statutory National Adaptation Framework.