The report of the Citizens’ Assembly was submitted to the Houses of the Oireachtas in April of this year, and the Houses subsequently established the Joint Committee on Climate Action to further consider the recommendations and report by the end of January 2019.
In the context of the consideration of each of the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly it is now a matter for the Joint Committee to consider whether and how each recommendation might be taken up by Government. In this context, the Committee is engaging with all relevant Government Departments on their respective policies in place and their position in response to the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations.
As I have previously indicated, I was pleased to note that many of the recommendations adopted by the Citizens' Assembly are already being addressed through the implementation of National Development Plan, the National Mitigation Plan and the Energy White Paper.
Addressing climate change and our targets to 2030 and beyond is one of the key policy priorities for this Government. Reflecting this priority, Ireland has established a very ambitious long-term decarbonisation objective through the National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development for 2050, and has already put in place robust governance arrangements to secure a strong co-ordinated approach to delivery of our ambition on climate action across all relevant Government Departments and Agencies.
The National Mitigation Plan published in July 2017 is a whole-of-Government Plan, reflecting, in particular, the central roles of the Ministers responsible for the four key sectors with the most significant contribution to national emissions - Electricity Generation; the Built Environment; Transport; and Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use - and draws on the perspectives of a range of other Departments.
I subsequently published Ireland’s first statutory National Adaptation Framework in January 2018. Under the Framework, seven Government Departments and Agencies, with responsibility for the twelve priority sectors identified in the Framework, are required to submit sectoral adaptation plans to Government for approval by 30 September 2019.
Recognising the significant obligation which has been placed on the Local Authority sector to develop and implement its own climate action measures, I provided funding to establish and develop four Local Authority Climate Action Regional Offices. These offices will ensure links between sectors and provide expertise and capacity at local and regional level to contribute effectively to the national transition to a low carbon and climate resilient economy.
Engagement between the wider public and central and local Government will be underpinned by a structured process of dialogue and engagement under the National Dialogue on Climate Action, with the first, very successful, regional dialogue event taking place last June in Athlone.
The Climate Action High Level Steering Group, which I chair and which includes representation from all relevant Government Departments and Agencies, meets at least quarterly to drive progress by sectors and agencies on the implementation of both the National Mitigation Plan and National Adaptation Framework. This group, in turn, reports to the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, Environment and Climate Action, chaired by An Taoiseach.
Technical capacity for climate action policy development and implementation is provided through the Technical Research and Modelling Group (TRAM), which was established by Government Decision in 2015 and is chaired by my Department. TRAM is a high level cross-departmental technical group, with representation from relevant Government Departments and Agencies, supported by a number of academic institutions. TRAM reports to the Climate Action High Level Steering Group.
The Climate Change Advisory Council, an independent body established under Section 8 of the 2015 Act, is mandated to provide advice and recommendations to me, to relevant sectoral Ministers and to the Government in relation to the development and implementation of the National Mitigation Plan and National Adaptation Framework. The Council is also tasked with advising on matters relating to the achievement of Ireland’s objective to transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and sustainable economy by 2050. Reports of the Advisory Council are available on its website at www.climatecouncil.ie
In accordance with the framework provided by the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, the Government must prepare and submit to the Oireachtas an Annual Transition Statement. In support of this written Statement I, as well as other relevant Ministers, provide an oral report to each House. This process ensures that responsible Ministers are directly accountable to the Oireachtas to ensure real progress is made in reducing emissions in their respective sectors. I expect to be in a position to lay the 2018 Annual Transition Statement before the Houses in the coming weeks.
My Department is also working closely with other relevant Departments and Agencies on the preparation of the National Energy and Climate Plan through the structures described above. Preparation of this Plan has been in turn informed by work undertaken to prepare the Energy White Paper, the National Mitigation Plan, the National Adaptation Framework, and the National Development Plan.
In conclusion, I am satisfied that robust institutional and oversight arrangements, accompanied by significant resources, have already been put in place in recent years and are designed to ensure that delivery of Ireland’s climate policy and integration of climate action is at the core of Government policy making.