Climate Action Strategy
Meath County Council Launch of draft Climate Action Strategy
The Cathaoirleach of Meath County Council Cllr Gerry O Connor together with the Chief Executive Jackie Maguire have today launched a draft Climate Action Strategy for the County and which will be the subject of public consultation and open for submission of comments, ideas and observations for a 6 week period from Monday 11th June 2018.
In publishing the draft Meath County Council will be one of the first Local Authorities to do so and fulfilling statutory obligations imposed on all public bodies by the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development 2015 and where such legislation has as its goal to move Ireland to a low carbon , climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy. This Act provides that following the publication of the National Mitigation Plan which seeks to lower Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the National Adaptation Framework which aims to manage the risk associated with Climate Change, each Local Authority and other public sector bodies shall prepare their own plans at local level.
Climate Change is a reality and local authorities like Meath County Council are at the coal face of advancing climate adaptation and mitigation in Ireland and while we are responsible for emissions and adaptations we are also influencers in such areas as energy, waste management, air quality, biodiversity, surface water management, planning, building control, transport choices etc.
We have responsibilities in terms of energy usage and choice of supply/source in our public lighting, buildings, depots, leisure facilities, in our housing stock, and our fleet. The Council are committed to achieving targets set for 2020 and 2030 in respect of energy efficiency, increase in renewables and decreases in Green House Gases (GHGs) associated with these areas of responsibility. Local Authorities are best placed to identify risk and vulnerabilities and to action them, across a wide spectrum of areas and under a variety of EU, National and Local Policies and Regulations
The Chief Executive in 2017 established a Climate Action Team drawn from all departments, skill sets and disciplines. The team in addition to having an input into the preparation of the draft Strategy which is being led by by Caroline Corrigan Senior Executive Engineer and Larry Whelan Senior Executive Officer will seek to instil a cultural change into the organisation in relation to designing, building and developing sustainability and mainstreaming climate change considerations into all plans and policies including the draft County Development Plan 2019-2025 which is at an advanced stage of preparation.
The main purpose of the draft Strategy is to outline practical actions that will help County Meath adapt to and mitigate against climate change and specifically across the key sectors over which Meath County Council exercise at least some level of operational control or influence. In total the draft strategy lists 135 objectives across 8 thematic areas and namely planning, economy, mobility, built environment, clean energy, resource management, water and natural resources.
The draft Strategy will feed into a Sustainable Energies and Climate Action Plan (SECAP) which will set out how CO2 reduction targets and adaptation measures are to be met by 2030. The Council then propose to make application to become signatures to the Covenant of Mayors which is a mainstream European movement involving local and regional authorities voluntarily committing to contributing to the EU target for reducing greenhouse gases emissions by 40% by 2030 by increasing energy efficiency and greater use of secure, sustainable and affordable renewable energy sources on their territories.
The Chief Executive points out the very close links the draft Strategy has with the Councils Economic Development Strategy published in 2014 and recognises the significant potential economic benefits from taking action on Climate Change and sees six key benefits of the draft strategy as follows;
1. Helping avoid the costs of climate change. The impacts of climate change are already being felt across Ireland, with many counties experiencing the costly effects of climate change already. A strong adaptation strategy will help to ensure that the county can continue to run effectively during more extreme weather and avoid unforeseen shocks to our services, residents and businesses.
2. Saving households and businesses money. Increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions will help to lower energy bills. This will help to increase spending power, supporting local businesses. Additionally, considering energy efficiency in the early stages of planning and development, will help us to avoid ‘locking in’ high carbon and climate-vulnerable developments and land use, patterns in the long-term.
3. Competing internationally. The clean energy economy is poised by the growth industry of the future. With increasing numbers of big businesses signing up to commitments including 100% renewable energy and science based carbon reduction targets, Climate Action, and marketing Meath as a Climate Ready region, will become increasingly important if County Meath wants to continue to attract inward investment from big businesses.
4. Health and wellbeing. By moving to more active modes of transport, transport policy changes that reduce private car use and increase walking and cycling would reduce obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In addition, by moving cleaner modes of transport, we can improve quality. Good quality, accessible green space infrastructure can provide many potential health and well-being benefits including increased life expectancy and reduced health inequality
5. Stronger communities. Community renewable energy schemes can deliver a range of social and economic benefits to local communities including increased autonomy, empowerment and resilience by providing a long term income and local control over finances, often in areas where there are few options for generating wealth.
6. Less congestion. By getting people out of cars and into shared modes of transport, we will future proof against congestion on our roads, which is one of our key Unique Selling Points s in the economic development strategy.
In January 2018 the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment announced the establishment of a Regional Structure as part of a joint or regional approach to climate change planning, and Meath County Council are looking forward to working with Kildare County Council as the lead authority, and the other constituent counties within the region as it is considered that the regional approach will enable the sector to have a comprehensive approach to climate change and there is no doubt that a collaborative response is needed to ensure that Meath and Ireland are climate change ready as part of all the services we provide.
The Council recognise that a key challenge is communicating effectively to foster Citizen engagement at all stages during the preparation of Climate Change Strategy but like all other Local Authorities are greatly positioned in interacting with the local communities and will use social media and other technology to elicit as much participation as possible in the process and will also work through the Public Partnership Networks and the Strategic Policy Committees in bringing the community on board in effecting a mature approach to the climate change agenda.