Tackling Climate Breakdown - Local Government, Regional Offices and EU Cities Mission
From Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications
Last updated on
From Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications
Last updated on
Local authorities are at the forefront of climate action in Ireland. They help make the national climate goals and policies work at a local level to assist in the delivery of the national climate objective.
A number of work programmes are being supported by the department in collaboration with the local government sector to drive emission reductions locally.
Each of Ireland’s 31 local authorities is required to develop a Local Authority Climate Action Plan, as set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Amendment Act 2021. Each local authority was instructed to commence this process in late February 2023 and has 12 months to prepare their plans.
Each local authority climate plan must be consistent with the State’s National Climate Action Plan to help ensure a clear link between national climate policy and local policy and implementation.
The local authority climate plans will address mitigation and adaptation in an integrated way and strengthen alignment between climate policy and the delivery of effective climate action at local and community levels. They will play a significant role in reinforcing the commitment by the local government sector to lead climate action.
The local authority plans are designed to lead to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in each local authority area. The five guiding principles for the local action plans are - ambitious, action-focused, evidence-based, participative and transparent.
Plans will be developed in three phases:
1. Advance planning
2. Statutory plan making
3. Implementation and reporting
As part of its local climate plan, each authority will:
Under the provisions of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Amendment Act 2021, statutory guidelines were developed in collaboration between the local government sector, technical agencies (such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Met Éireann), and government departments.
The guidelines set out how local authorities should approach the content and preparation of the local plans and will help to ensure an informed and consistent approach to climate action planning.
Find out more here
Developing the local climate plans will require more of the local authorities. In recognition of this, the Department is providing funds for specific roles to form part of and strengthen climate action teams - a Climate Action Coordinator and a Climate Action Officer.
These supports will ensure that each local authority has a specialised team in place to coordinate the development of the plan and responsible for supporting its implementation and tracking this.
A dedicated Community Climate Officer is also funded through another workstream under the Climate Action Fund (CAF) Community Climate Action Programme – Strand 1. Find out more here.
Local authorities have essential local knowledge and have a critical role to play in managing climate risks and vulnerabilities and identifying adaptation actions that will build resilience locally.
Under the National Adaptation Framework and Climate Action Plan 2019, each local authority developed its own adaptation strategy, in line with guidelines developed for the sector. These local authority adaptation strategies were approved by their Councils in 2019.
Implementation of these strategies is underway and you can download the 31 local authority adaptation strategies from the Climate Ireland Adaptation Strategy Explorer from the Climate Ireland website.
In January 2018, the government established four Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs) in recognition of the need to build capacity within the local government sector to respond and adapt to climate change. The CAROs play an important role in ensuring that cross-sectoral climate issues are identified and addressed.
The need for regional climate offices was reflected in both the National Adaptation Framework and the National Mitigation Plan and a commitment was made to provide €10 million in funding over a 5-year period.
The CAROs play a central role in supporting and coordinating climate actions undertaken by local authorities, the measurement and recording of key performance indicators and supporting the advancement of behavioural change initiatives. The CAROs are supporting the local authorities to develop and coordinate their local climate plans across regions and nationally and assist with sharing knowledge and best practice.
Each office is operated by a lead local authority. The four CAROs and lead local authorities are:
The regional structure of the CAROs was designed to ensure that the counties within each regional area share similar geographical and topographical characteristics and climate risks. The CAROs provide a shared service function within the local government sector, with input from the County and City Management Association (CCMA).
The Department has a Service Level Agreement with the four lead local authorities to host the regional offices and to deliver a combined annual work programme. More information is available on the CARO website.
The Department supports upskilling and capacity building in the local government sector by funding the Local Authority Climate Action Training Programme, with a commitment of €1.575m over 2021 - 2023.
This programme is designed to increase understanding of climate change and the need for action among all local authority staff and elected members. Building climate action capacity in the local authorities is essential to support the leadership role in the fight against climate change and in building resilience to its negative effects.
The Climate Action Training Programme comprises a suite of six training pillars, each tailored and designed to specific target groupings. These are:
Training is delivered in areas such as climate science, the translation of international and national policy to local requirements, practical adaptation and mitigation measures, leadership, local innovation and behavioural change. Specific training has been rolled out to support local authorities with their local climate action plans.
The county councils set annual targets for the number of local authority staff (including front line staff, senior management, climate action teams) and elected members who will receive climate related training. In 2021, 13,500 staff from all local authorities completed training through the programme.
The Department has a Service Level Agreement with Kildare County Council, as the lead authority for the Eastern and Midlands CARO, to deliver the training programme. Kildare County Council works in collaboration with Tipperary County Council which is the lead authority for the Local Authority Services National Training Group.
The European Commission set up the EU Cities Mission in 2021. Its aim is to support 100 cities in the EU to become climate neutral by 2030 and to pave the way for all cities in Europe to be climate neutral by 2050. European cities can substantially contribute to the EU Green Deal target of reducing emissions by 55% by 2030.
The Cities Mission forms part of Horizon Europe which is the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation. There are five “missions” which are each designed to address pressing global issues that require cross-domain cooperation at both EU and national level. See more on the Horizon EU Missions on the European Commission website.
In April 2022 Cork and Dublin were selected from over 300 applicants to be part of the initiative. The Department is supporting the two cities in achieving the target of being net zero cities by 2030 and will work alongside relevant departments and agencies.
Large urban areas have been selected for specific focus and help because urban areas across Europe account for 75% of its population. The cities mission will help cities to become places which provide citizens with a good quality of life through cleaner air, safer transport and less congestion and noise.
Cork and Dublin are poised to act as experimentation and innovation hubs, implementing cutting-edge and creative solutions across areas such as energy, transport, waste, infrastructure and buildings to reduce their environmental footprints. They will act as sites of learning and inspiration for other cities and towns in the decades to come. Dublin and Cork will be able to access the latest advice and guidance from other cities.
The two cities will work with the support platform, Net Zero Cities, to agree and develop the actions and investment plan which, once agreed, will form the Climate City Contract. The missions will take a cross-sectoral and demand-led approach and will involve the local authorities, citizens, businesses, regional and national authorities, investors and academia.
More information on the EU Cities Mission can be found on the European Commission website.
The Local Authority Climate Action Charter represents a crucial step for local authorities in responding more widely to the challenges of climate change.
The 2019 Climate Action Plan required that a Climate Action Charter be introduced for every local authority through the use of Ministerial policy directions or equivalent power.
Following a consultation process with the City and County Managers Association, the Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs) and local authorities, DECC submitted a Local Authority Climate Action Charter to government who approved it on 22 October 2019. The Minister signed it along with key local authorities on 29 October 2019 and all local authorities have now signed up to it. The Charter can be found here.
The Charter recognises that a whole-of-government approach is essential in addressing climate change. Central government has a lead role to play in developing policy and ensuring resources are made available to realise Ireland’s climate and sustainability commitments, while local authorities are ideally placed to provide robust leadership in advancing this objective at the local and regional level.
The Charter commits local authorities to actions that will ensure that they play a key leadership role locally and nationally in delivering effective climate action. The actions range across a number of areas including energy use, public procurement and transport.