20 Dec 2018 Story Climate change

We need to change the way we live

An interview with Ireland’s Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment

What do you think is the most pressing environmental issue today and why?

Ireland recognizes that climate change, which interacts with so many other aspects of the environment, such as biodiversity loss, is the great global threat for this century. However, we must not ignore all the other aspects of environmental protection, such as air quality and waste management.

What do you think are some of the practical ways to address it?

We need to change the way we live. The Government of Ireland is seeking to ensure an integrated approach to leading this change. For example, the Minister for the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has obtained Government approval to develop an all of Government plan to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change, rather than a follower. This plan will include actions across Government to help us reach our climate goals.

It is critical that we engage every individual, community, company, and public body, in addressing these climate goals, and other environmental goals. The National Dialogue on Climate Action, launched in 2017, engages and motivates local communities to address climate change challenges through a series of regional gatherings held across the country. At the household level, one aspect of addressing residential energy efficiency and fuel poverty has been to provide short-term financial assistance towards home improvements that will lead to long-term environmental, health and financial benefits. Also, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has invested nearly 3 million euros in education and awareness campaigns around how to recycle and compost correctly at home.

Raising awareness is only possible where evidence is available to back up the message. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme, to which the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is providing 5 million euros, aims to double the number of air quality monitoring stations across the country by 2022, compared to 2017. This will enhance understanding of air quality issues in Ireland and greatly improve the flow of real time information about air quality to the public.

Which is more important, increasing our standard of living or protecting the planet? Is it possible to achieve both?

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development requires the integration of economic, social and environmental progress. Thus, increasing our standard of living goes hand in hand with protecting the planet. To achieve this, in Ireland we will align national policy with the Sustainable Development Goals. Also, actions to simultaneously increase our standard of living and protect the planet are built into the National Development Plan 2018-2027 and the National Planning Framework 2040. For example, the Climate Action Fund, launched in 2018, will provide 500 million euros to support climate action projects, offering potential for innovative interventions that would otherwise not be introduced. The Disruptive Technology Fund encourages enterprise-driven partnerships in areas such as smart and sustainable food production and processing, and decarbonizing the energy system. Innovative environmental technologies, the circular economy and the bio-economy, all offer possibilities for economic gain, allowing increases in standard of living, in parallel with environmental protection. Such approaches include the development of novel sensors for monitoring air or water quality, the reuse of goods previously seen as waste and the production of renewable energy and products needed for nutrition, construction, etc. from biological sources, reducing the exploitation of fossil fuels. The impact of these innovations on local standard of living can be particularly valuable in areas where there traditionally have been fewer employment opportunities, as is the case of the link between the bio-economy and the rural economy.

In Ireland, we recognize that acting nationally is critical, but also that there is a need for coordinated actions at a global scale. That is why we are proud to contribute to the UN Environment Fund.

Please follow these links for further information about the Environment and Climate Action work of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment; see also how Project Ireland 2040 is helping us to Transition to a Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Society.