The National Framework for Sustainable Development, Our Sustainable Future, sets out a range of challenges which Ireland faces, including in relation to the sustainability of public finances and economic resilience. In response to the challenges, it also set out some 70 measures to be implemented across Government in order to create a more sustainable Ireland. A 2015 progress report on the national framework is available on my Department’s website www.dccae.gov.ie.
In line with the overall objective of the national framework, the 2016 Programme for a Partnership Government contains a timely and ambitious commitment to shape the long-term direction of Irish environmental policy towards a low-carbon future, and achievement of recognition for Ireland as a country with one of the cleanest and safest environments in the world.
In response to the decarbonisation and other environmental challenges which Ireland faces, my Department’s Statement of Strategy 2016-2019 includes a commitment to support economic and social progress and help the country reach its full potential by, inter alia, leading the national transition to a sustainable, low-carbon, resource-efficient economy; protecting and improving our high-quality natural environment; and ensuring the sustainable and productive use of our natural resources.
The National Mitigation Plan, which I published in July 2017, represents an initial step to set Ireland on a pathway to achieve the deep decarbonisation required by mid-century in line with Government policy objectives. It contains a series of mitigation measures and actions to address the immediate challenge to 2020 and to prepare for the EU targets that Ireland will take on for 2030. It also begins the development of work to meet the objectives of the National Policy Position for 2050.
Ireland also needs to tackle the challenges presented by the impacts of climate change which are unprecedented, both in terms of the potential scale and the transformation required to prepare for them. The National Adaptation Framework published last month sets out the context to ensure local authorities, regions and key sectors can assess the key risks and vulnerabilities of climate change, develop adaptation plans and strategies to implement climate resilience actions and ensure climate adaptation considerations are mainstreamed into all local, regional and national policy making.
In parallel to the National Mitigation Plan and National Adaptation Framework, I have also committed to putting in place a national Clean Air Strategy with the aim of enhancing and protecting the quality of the air that we breathe. Work is on-going in my Department and it is my intention that the Clean Air Strategy will provide the strategic policy framework to identify and promote the required integrated measures across Government to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner air while delivering on wider social and economic objectives.
All of these actions are consistent to Ireland’s commitment to the 2015 international agreement on Transforming our World – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In direct response to the 2030 Agenda and in advance of Ireland’s first national voluntary review at the United Nations in July 2018, my Department is finalising coordination of a National Implementation Plan which I will publish shortly. Looking beyond the first national voluntary review, I also intend to develop a renewed high-level national policy position on environment protection. Work on this policy initiative is at an early stage in my Department but I intend to complete it in 2018.
In addition, both the Environmental Protection Agency's 2016 report on the state of the environment, Ireland's Environment: An Assessment 2016, and the National Risk Assessment 2017, prepared by the Department of the Taoiseach, identify a range of environmental risks but highlight Climate Change and the need to decarbonise the economy as the most pressing environmental issue for Ireland. I agree with this assessment.
The National Risk Assessment 2017 may be found here: https://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Publications/Publications_2017/National%20Risk%20Assessment%202017%20-%20Overview%20of%20Strategic%20Risks.pdf
Ireland's Environment: An Assessment 2016 may be found here: http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/indicators/SoE_Report_2016.pdf