Implementing Ireland’s first statutory National Adaptation Framework (NAF) is a key priority for both my Department and indeed the whole of Government. I am very happy to report that significant progress has been made in the relatively short time that has elapsed since I published the Framework in the offices of Sligo County Council in January of this year.
The NAF identifies 12 priority actions and related supporting objectives that are to be progressed in order to support and advance the implementation of climate adaptation policy at national, regional and local level in Ireland. These 12 priority actions are being advanced in line with the timelines given in the table of actions on pages 89 and 90 of the NAF.
Under the NAF, Government Departments with responsibility for priority sectors are required to prepare sectoral adaptation plans in line with the requirements of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. The NAF identifies twelve key sectors under the remit of seven Government Ministers where sectoral adaptation plans are to be prepared. On 27 March 2018 the Government requested, in line with its obligations under the Climate Act, those Ministers to begin the preparation of their sectoral plans and to submit final plans to Government no later than 30 September 2019.
On foot of that Government decision, I have written to the relevant Ministers outlining the deadline for the submission of plans to Government, including a summary of the requirements on Ministers when preparing those plans and the oversight arrangements that will be in place to support implementation of NAF and the development of sectoral plans. In this regard the National Adaptation Steering Committee is currently being reviewed and restructured so as to ensure that a coordinated, comprehensive and coherent approach continues to operate in implementing actions under the NAF. This Steering Committee will now report into the High Level Steering Group established under the National Mitigation Plan (NMP) which I chair, and which has now been renamed the National Climate Action High Level Steering Group so as to address both climate mitigation and adaptation.
This oversight structure will be further supported by statutory oversight mechanisms in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, including those referred to on page 88 of the NAF.
Local understanding is also crucial to getting adaptation right. In this regard, and in order to further advance key actions identified under both the NAF and the National Mitigation Plan (NMP), I announced back in January funding of €10 million to be provided over five years to set up four Regional Local Authority Climate Action Offices. My Department is currently engaging with the City and County Management Association and the Local Government Management Agency to progress the establishment of this regional structure as efficiently as possible and ensuring that proper oversight and governance arrangements are put in place.
I have written to the Chief Executives of each of the four lead Local Authorities concerned, outlining the obligations and governance arrangements for the Local Authority sector in relation to climate action, including with regard to the preparation of Local Authority adaptation strategies.
I am also aware of the need to ensure that our relevant sectors, including Local Government, are supported in their efforts to develop their respective adaptation plans and strategies under the framework. In this regard, I intend to publish Sectoral Planning Guidelines for Climate Change Adaptation in the coming weeks, with a view to following up later this year with the publication of Local Adaptation Strategy Guidelines. I am also looking at how best to develop a Climate Information Platform (Climate Ireland) for Ireland which can act as a long-term operational support for climate action in Ireland. Such a platform can also play a key role in facilitating our National Dialogue on Climate Action. This will be critical in terms of continuing to raise awareness of the key issues pertaining to climate adaptation and resilience.
I am fully committed to ensuring we continue to implement all relevant actions under the NAF and I am working across the whole of Government to embed climate resilience into everything we do - whether through our new National Planning Framework or through our National Development Plan - and in doing so continue the process of making appropriate preparations so as to ensure we are climate resilient well into the future.