At the end of 2012, the Irish government published its National Climate Change Adaptation Framework.  The plan purports to set down the government’s approach to addressing the serious problem of how Ireland is going to adapt to the severe impacts from climate change that are acknowledged to be coming. The difficult challenge for the government, as it is for all of us, is how to convince people — the general public, policy makers, politicians, local authorities — that we need to begin to adapt now in light of climate impacts that are beginning to show themselves and in anticipation of more serious, negative climate impacts heading our way in 25 to 50 to 100 years, at the same time as we engage in mitigation efforts. 

The report says almost nothing concrete about adapting.  While it announces that others will be responsible for developing sectoral and local adaptation plans, the government fails to advance an understanding or commitment to what specifically has to be done to adapt.

The Framework

The substance, or content, of the message is short, straight forward and uncomplicated:  the national government will keep an eye on what is happening in the EU; each of the national government agencies will develop adaptation plans for each sector, e.g., agriculture, energy; the government, through the Department of Environmental, Commmunity, and Local Government (DECLG), will support the EPA in research on adaptation issues; and local governments will shoulder the burden of incorporating adaptation actions into local development planning.   This message could have been conveyed in several pages, if not in several paragraphs, instead of 73 pages.

The report does bring together much of the work already done on adaptation, in the EU and in Ireland, but it does so merely by citing to this work. See Annex 3 to the report.  More useful would have been a report that incorporated the key contributions of this earlier work into a Framework with specific steps forward, or synthesized the earlier work. Here was a missed opportunity to kick-start the sector and local authority adaptation plans.

The Framework sets mid-2014 as the deadline, or rather hopeful date, for the government agencies to produce sectoral adaptation plans and for local authorities “to aim to have a review process of their development plan underway…,” in other words, they should take a shot at it but no fuss if they miss.  

Moreover, the DECLG and the EPA still have to prepare guidelines for integrating adaptation into development plans as well as guidance on adaptation proofing of Strategic Environmental Assessment.  It is unclear when such guidelines will be published and it is likely that not much can happen until such guidance is issued.

Even these limited goals are undercut because the government has, once again, delayed introducing and passing a Climate Bill.  It is difficult to proceed with adaptation without knowing what mitigation plans will be implemented: the less mitigation accomplished, the more adaptation necessary.

What’s Missing

The report is particularly disappointing as there has been solid research and case studies on both models for and practical applications of adaptation.  EPA has invested, to good effect, in its Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for the Environment (STRIVE) research programme, building expertise in all aspects of climate change including adaptation.  See Sources below for references to several examples.  The European Environment Agency has produced solid research and policy assessments, and a whole series of case studies, on adaptation.  One such case study was a holistic study of beach erosion and management undertaken jointly by Donegal County Council and the Centre for Coastal & Marine Research (CCMR) of the University of Ulster, Coleraine.  Another example is a project in Netherlands to develop new methods to calculate both the probability and consequences of flooding.

Indeed, in 2009 the European Commission issued its White Paper on Adapting to Climate Change and reports on adaptation in particular sectors, including agriculture.  Those reports offered many more concrete examples of what is possible than we find in Ireland’s Framework in 2012.

The point is that there is a wealth of concrete material that could have, should have, informed the government’s Adaptation Framework.  Like all of us, the general public and policy-makers need examples, models and encouragement to face the challenges of adaptation.  Making the implications of the Framework specific and concrete would have advanced progress toward adaptation.  The Framework falls far short of marking any progress.


“Hogan Publishes Climate Change Adaptation Framework and releases summary of progress overall on national climate policy”,32078,en.htm

EPA Climate Change Research Programme 2007–2013, Margaret Desmond and Tara Shine, National Adaptive Capacity Assessment (2012).,34327,en.html

EPA STRIVE Programme, Thematic Research Area 2 – Impacts and Adaptation  See, for example, EPA Climate Change Research Programme 2007–2013, Julia Hall, Conor Murphy and John Sweeney, Robust Adaptation to Climate Change in the Water Sector in Ireland,33711,en.html

European Environment Agency, European Climate Adaptation Platform

A more holistic approach to beach management by a Local Authority – Academic Couplet, involving Donegal County Council and the Centre for Coastal & Marine Research (CCMR) of the University of Ulster, Coleraine

Flood Risks and Safety in the Netherlands,

European Commission, WHITE PAPER: Adapting to climate change: Towards a European framework for action (2009)

European Commission, Agriculture and Climate Change

European Commission staff working document accompanying the White paper – Adapting to climate change: Towards a European framework for action – Adapting to climate change: the challenge for European agriculture and rural areas {COM(2009) 147 final}/* SEC/2009/0417 final







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