The final progress report on the 2023 Climate Action Plan (CAP23), published this week , puts the overall implementation rate for the plan at 65%, with 188 of 290 actions set out for the year completed.

In total, 161 actions were scheduled for implementation and reporting in Quarter 4.

Ninety six (96) of the Q4 actions were completed on time, resulting in a delivery rate for the quarter of 60%.

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2023 was a key year for the climate globally with multiple sets of data confirming record-breaking weather and warnings about the imminent breach of the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree target in the run up to COP28.

While climate action in Ireland saw significant achievements in renewable energy, active travel, and funding, delivery rates of committed actions for the year were not equal to the actions set out in the Climate Action Plan.

This creates challenges for legally binding EU and national emissions reduction targets, with the Q4 report calling for uncompleted CAP23 actions to be urgently delivered and challenges to climate action implementation to be dealt with.

 

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In late 2023, Climate Action Plan 2024 was approved by Government, subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment. A public consultation is now live and will close on 5 April.

CAP24 builds on CAP23 by refining and updating the measures and actions required to deliver the carbon budgets and sectoral emissions ceilings.

For 2024, and building on work done in CAP23, the Government’s Climate Action Plan is more focused on high impact actions and progress reports acknowledge new initiatives or significant steps towards achieving Ireland’s climate ambitions.

In line with those principles, a legacy exercise on actions that were not completed during 2023 (approx. 100) was undertaken and published as part of the Q4 progress report.

Delayed actions considered to be of higher impact will be retained for progress reporting in Q1 2024, and beyond, until they are completed, alongside any new CAP24 actions.

This is important for accountability between successive annual Climate Action Plans.

 

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Speaking on the Q4 Report, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said:

The impact of climate change is being felt more strongly in Ireland and around the world than ever before. Unless the world changes course, the long-term impacts will be much more severe.

We all need to take action: the Government, communities, families and individuals.

Each one of us can make a difference. At Government level we are transforming every sector of the economy.

This will help Ireland to play its part, but it’s also a good opportunity for our country too.

It will mean warmer homes, cleaner air, fewer journeys, less time commuting, more remote and home working, more jobs and regional development.

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Remote Work

This fourth quarter report shows progress, but we need to try harder at Government level to achieve all our goals, and I am confident that we will.

By working together, we can create new jobs and opportunities, reach our climate goals, and help to secure the future of the planet on which we all live.

This week at Cabinet we had two separate proposals to develop offshore wind in Ireland, and make Ireland a world leader in this growing sector.

I am convinced that within one generation, Ireland will be energy independent.

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Tánaiste Micheál Martin said:

The challenges faced by Ireland and the rest of the world when it comes to climate change are stark. Recent extreme weather events, such as the severe flooding last year, are proof that adaptation to the risks of climate change is needed right now for the protection of our communities and people.

We are working to reduce our emissions to safeguard against the worst effects of climate change. An important element in this, as detailed in this progress report, is the retrofitting of our homes.

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We’ve seen homeowners respond positively to the record level of supports that Government has put in place to reduce emissions and create warmer, more comfortable homes that are much cheaper to heat.

We must also invest in communities overseas. Climate change is a leading cause of migration, loss and damage for people across the globe.

Climate action is one of four priority areas identified in A Better World, Ireland’s policy for international development. Ireland is committed to enhancing its contribution to the most vulnerable communities in the poorest countries to help in their efforts to tackle this shared threat.

This progress report for 2023 tells us two things. It tells us that we are making progress across many of our targets, but it also tells us that we have to move at even greater speed and at greater scale right across Government if we are to achieve our climate ambitions and if we are to protect our country and our citizens from the worst impacts of climate change.

There can be no room for complacency as we push to deliver on high impact projects as part of our 2024 climate plan.

There were many highlights over 2023 and the last quarter of the year. In energy particularly, we are making significant strides.

The gains made in the generation of renewable energy at home, and across the globe, shows that the shift that needs to happen from fossil fuels to renewables can and will be achieved.

There are encouraging indications that our emissions from electricity will reduce by about 25% in 2023 and that our overall emissions could reduce by about 5%.

These are encouraging signs in a country that continues to have a booming economy and an increasing population.

Final Climate Action Plan 2023 Progress Report shows 65% implementation of actions last year 1
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Reducing emissions from travel will remain a key focus for the coming year. In 2023, public transport passenger numbers increased by 25%, with an explosion in rural transport numbers particularly, with unprecedented weekly improvements in public transport services and active travel infrastructure.

We know that making changes in this sector will result in really significant emissions savings but importantly, it will transform our towns and villages by making them safer and cleaner.

We are also seeing encouraging green shoots in agriculture. Fertiliser use is down by 27% and one in three of our farmers (46,000 out of 135,000 farmers) has signed up for ACRES – the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme.

Farmers are on the frontline of climate action and we want to protect and support our family farms, providing more reliable and diverse forms of income from quality food production, forestry, and renewable energy for example.

Minister Rabbitte said:

Groundroots action is of paramount importance in addressing the climate crisis as it involves individuals, communities, and local organisations taking direct and collective initiatives to drive change at the grassroots level.

A decentralised approach is crucial for several reasons:

Localised Impact

Final Climate Action Plan 2023 Progress Report shows 65% implementation of actions last year 3
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Groundroots actions focus on local and community-based solutions, considering the unique challenges and opportunities present in specific regions.

This enables targeted and immediate responses to environmental issues affecting local ecosystems, biodiversity, and communities.

Community Engagement

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Climate change affects communities directly, and involving local residents in decision-making processes fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility.

Engaging communities in sustainable practices, conservation efforts, and renewable energy projects enhances the effectiveness and long-term success of climate initiatives.

Innovation and Adaptation

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Groundroots initiatives often encourage innovation and adaptation to address climate challenges.

Local communities are more attuned to their surroundings, allowing for the development of context-specific solutions that can be more effective and sustainable over time.

Educational Opportunities

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Grassroots actions provide platforms for education and awareness-building.

By involving local populations in climate initiatives, there is an opportunity to educate individuals about the causes and consequences of climate change, fostering a collective understanding and commitment to sustainable practices.

Pressure on Decision-Makers

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Grassroots movements can exert pressure on higher levels of government and international bodies, advocating for policy changes and more significant action on climate issues.

The collective voice of communities can influence decision-makers to prioritize environmentally friendly policies and investments.

Social Cohesion

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Climate action at the grassroots level can strengthen social bonds and community cohesion. Shared goals and efforts to combat climate change can bring people together, fostering a sense of solidarity and collaboration that extends beyond environmental initiatives.

Demonstration Effect

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Successful grassroots initiatives can serve as inspiring examples for other communities, creating a ripple effect of positive change.

These demonstrations can encourage replication and adaptation of effective strategies in various contexts.

In essence, the importance of grassroots action lies in its ability to create a bottom-up movement, empowering individuals and communities to contribute directly to mitigating climate change.

While global agreements and national policies are crucial, the collective efforts of communities worldwide play a vital role in building a sustainable and resilient future.

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