National Climate Change Adaptation Framework
The National Climate Change Adaptation Framework provides a strategic policy focus to ensure adaptation measures are taken across different sectors and levels of government to reduce Ireland’s vulnerability to the negative impacts of climate change. The aim of this Framework is to ensure that an effective role is played by all stakeholders in putting in place an active and enduring adaptation policy regime. The governance structure provides for climate change adaptation to be addressed at national and local level. Similar to the approach being taken at EU level in the White Paper on Adaptation, it is intended to follow a two-phased approach to adaptation in Ireland.
The first phase, which is already well underway, is focused on identifying national vulnerability to climate change, based on potential impacts relative to current adaptive capacity. Reliable information on the range of socio-economic vulnerabilities, the costs and benefits, and the options available and appropriate to Ireland, are key elements to inform effective adaptation planning. Much work has already been done in recent years, by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and others, to provide the evidence base necessary to inform development of the national agenda. Sufficient high quality data and information already exists to begin the adaptation planning process now. Information dissemination systems are being further developed to inform all levels of decision-making.
The second phase involves the development and implementation of sectoral and local adaptation action plans which will form part of the comprehensive national response to the impacts of climate change. Sectoral plans will be prepared by the relevant Department or Agency and will be adopted by the relevant Minister. Draft sectoral plans will be published by mid-2014 and, following approval should be reviewed at least every 5 years. However, where a sectoral mitigation plan is required under the forthcoming primary legislation on climate change, both mitigation and adaptation plans should be prepared and reviewed in tandem to ensure full coherence of analysis and actions.
The Government recognises the critical importance of planning and development measures in the overall strategic approach to adaptation to climate change. The spatial planning process, with full engagement of key stakeholders, provides an established means through which to implement and integrate climate change objectives, including adaptation, at local level. Current guidelines on flood risk management require local authorities to be vigilant in ensuring that risks of flooding into the future are identified and integrated into the planning process. These guidelines are particularly important in reviewing development plans, especially in zoning land for development. As local authorities review their development plans, they will now be required to integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation considerations into their plans. For the purposes of this Framework, local authorities should make an assessment of the extent to which existing development plans adequately address adaptation to climate change and, where appropriate, aim to
have a review process of their development plan underway by mid-2014 (if necessary, through amendment and variation procedures) if climate adaptation is not already adequately addressed. Local development planning will, in effect, become the mechanism for the delivery of local climate adaptation action.
The Government will support and facilitate this approach through the preparation of guidelines for integrating adaptation into development plans as well as guidance on adaptation proofing of Strategic Environmental Assessment. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the EPA will work together on the preparation of these guidelines.
In order to ensure effective monitoring and review, it is important that adaptation plans identify those who will be responsible for monitoring the plan, the criteria against which plans will be reviewed, the review process mechanism and the timescales for reviews to be carried out. Future work under the EPA’s Climate Change Research Programme will take account of the need for adaptation indicators to assist in monitoring and review of plans as well as allowing for comparison across plans. This will also assist in the national reporting requirements which may arise within the EU and at the wider international level under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.