Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation

Local and National Policymakers, Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government, EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), Met Éireann, Irish Water, NUIG, GMIT

Over the coming years, tackling and coping with climate change will affect all sectors of our economy. Although there is always pressure to spend money elsewhere, dealing with climate change must be a priority for us all. As has been clearly demonstrated by the Stern Review (UK, 2006), the cost of inaction on climate change far exceeds the cost of action. Long-term, integrated, strategic economic planning, involving all stakeholders on all institutional levels at every level of government from the local authority to the EU, is essential. The private sector will not be immune to climate change and it will have to play its role also.

Mitigation – minimising climate change
Climate change mitigation consists of actions to limit the magnitude and/or rate of climate change. Climate change mitigation generally involves reductions in human emissions of greenhouse gases by, for example, switching to renewable energy, the greater use of public transport, and increased energy efficiency at home and at work. Mitigation may also be achieved by increasing the capacity of carbon sinks, e.g. through reforestation. Mitigation policies can substantially reduce the risks associated with human-induced global warming. Most of the solutions in this document deal with mitigation.

Adaptation – adjusting to climate change
It is widely accepted in the scientific community that, even if there were no further increase in greenhouse gas emissions, there will be some inevitable changes in our climate due to historical emissions since the beginning of the industrial revolution. As a result, most countries are taking adaptation measures. Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise.
Examples of adaptation include:
– building sea defences to deal with higher sea levels
– growing different crops that can tolerate a wetter, warmer climate
– strengthening of overhead transmission and distribution infrastructure (electricity cables, etc.) so as to be able to withstand stronger and more frequent storms
– not building new housing in river flood plains that are more vulnerable to flooding

Under the National Adaptation Framework (2012), each relevant Irish government department and state agency is expected to prepare climate change adaptation plans for their sector. Climate change needs to be integrated into the development of policies, plans and programmes of all state organisations. To be effective and ensure a good return for the taxpayer, these plans need to be comprehensive, coherent and not contradictory.

Greater economic analysis of the risks associated with climate change needs to be carried out using the best information from the scientific community. The economic costs and benefits associated with adaptation options need to be continually assessed.

Government bodies should work together to share knowledge, experience and resources as well as to take advantage of economies of scale. Government employees will need to have expertise in climate change meaning that new staff may have to be recruited and/or existing staff will need additional training.

Significant financial investment in adaptation will be required in the short, medium and long term. Some sectors will be more vulnerable than others. It is clear that there are significant long-term risks for coastal infrastructure both from extreme weather events (such as flooding) and gradual climate change. In other sectors, some adaptation actions can lead to high benefit-cost ratios and/or can be implemented at low cost.

Contingency budgets for climate change emergencies (flooding, storm damage, etc.) will also need to be funded.

Companies and businesses will also need to prepare and plan for a changing climate. Some sectors will be more vulnerable to negative effects and will require major and on-going investments to be made in order to cope. For example, sectors relying heavily on water (such as agriculture) will need to consider water efficiency measures as part of their future business models, including alternatives to treated water.

Climate change will have negative consequences in the decades ahead, but there will also be positive consequences for some sectors. In the forestry sector, for example, there may be commercial opportunities in the potential increases in tree growth and in the greater range of species that can be grown.
National Adaptation Framework, Department of Environment, Community & Local Government, Dublin 1
Centre for Climate Adaptation