Relentless execution of policies needed to combat climate change, says EPA chief

Published by Niall Sargent on

October 5th, 2018

A “relentless” execution of climate policies outlined by the Government is needed to deliver on Ireland’s ambition to be a leader in tackling climate change, the head of the EPA said today.

Speaking at the Environment Ireland conference yesterday, Laura Burke said that we need to stop focusing on achieving compliance with international targets and instead drive a transformational change “urgently needed across our entire economy and society”.

Ms Burke said that the resilience of Ireland’s infrastructure, economy, health care and people’s wellbeing were all “severely tested” by a number of extreme weather events over the last year.

“We have, by any measure, experienced an extraordinary year where nature reminded us who is in charge,” she said, warning that we can expect extreme events at “greater frequency into the future”.

Events such as Ophelia and the summer drought have added up to a “turning point” for Irish people and affect sectors about what needs to be done “to build and assure resilience”.

“Mitigation is essential, adaptation is necessary,” she said. “Anything less is unsustainable, indeed, irresponsible.”

Ms Burke said that it is now a priority to ensure “committed, coherent and relentless implementation” of policies outlined in the likes of the National Mitigation Plan and National Adaptation Framework.

“The systemic nature of the climate challenge emphasises the need to deliver enduring, integrated, all-of-government structures with clear responsibility and accountability,” she said.

Minister for Climate Action and the Environment Photo: EPA

Also speaking at the conference, Minister for Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, has said that legislation and taxes will ensure we meet international climate change obligations.

He rejected the charge from advocacy groups and experts, including the State’s own climate advisory body, that Ireland’s actions to date have failed to bring down emissions levels.

He said that a lot has been achieved in the areas of renewables, energy efficiency, and waste reduction, and pointed to the €22 billion set to go toward climate action under the National Development Plan.

A special Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report to be released next Monday is likely to warn that the world is set to exceed the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C threshold without significant and rapid action.

In an interview with The Irish Times last month, Mr Naughten admitted that the National Mitigation Plan is not working.

The plan, launched last year amid heavy criticism from opposition parties and environmental groups for a perceived lack of ambition, is expected to be radically revised in the coming months, the Minister said.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London