Lead policy responsibility in relation to climate action is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment. However, I and my Department play a strongly supportive role, recognising the significant part that the built environment, planning and local government generally play in contributing to the achievement of Ireland’s climate targets.
Through our building regulations, we are ensuring that homes in Ireland are built to the highest energy efficiency standards. In relation to social housing specifically, funding of approximately €128 million has been provided from 2013 to the end of 2018 to improve energy efficiency in almost 68,000 local authority homes. In addition, energy efficiency measures have been incorporated into over 9,000 vacant social housing units that have been returned to productive use since 2014. This effectively means that approximately 50% of our social housing stock have had improvements to their energy efficiency.
To support the effort needed by the public sector to reach its target of a 33% improvement in energy efficiency by 2020, a Public Sector Energy Efficiency Strategy has been approved by Government and published by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. This Strategy contains a governance structure based around the designation of a senior manager as Energy Performance Officer (EPO) in each public sector body whose purpose is to provide oversight and strategic leadership on structured energy management within the organisation and to report to Government. My Department recently hosted a workshop with bodies and agencies under the aegis of the Department to provide an opportunity for each body and the group collectively to organise for performance and delivery of improved energy efficiency outcomes.
My Department is also playing a significant role in delivering on the Government’s climate ambitions through the National Planning Framework (NPF), which was published in early 2018 as part of Project Ireland 2040. The NPF sets out long-term policy for the future spatial pattern of development and urban structure in Ireland. The national objective to transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society by 2050 is a key aspect of the NPF, particularly reflected in the “compact growth” objective of targeting a greater proportion of development to take place in settlements of all sizes, through urban infill and the re-use of brownfield lands. The NPF operates horizontally across Government and will cascade vertically down through three Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSESs), to directly influence the operation of the planning system through the thirty-one local authority Development Plans.