Chapter 2: Climate Action

opendate_range28 Sep, 2020, 9:00am - 9 Dec, 2020, 4:00pm

2.1 Introduction

As the impacts of climate change are experienced first-hand at the local level, the Council is best placed to plan and respond to local climate change and to use its services and resources to help local communities and businesses build resilience to the impacts. Many of the Council’s services, including the management of roads, coastal areas and water services, are already feeling the effects of climate change, responding on the ground to extreme weather events which are having impacts on people, property and infrastructure across the county. The Climate Action Charter, which was signed by all local authorities on the 31st October 2019, requires every local authority to embed decarbonisation, sustainable development and climate resilience into every aspect of the work they do. 

The Council is at the forefront of climate action and transition to a low carbon economy. In November 2017, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the United Nations, the Irish Government, Wexford County Council and NZEBRA, committing to establishment of an UN Centre of Excellence on Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) in Enniscorthy Town, alongside similar centres in Vancouver and New York. This centre will, in collaboration with Waterford Wexford Education Training Board (WWETB), provide education in High Performance Buildings to students from all over the world and help develop standards that will improve energy efficiency in buildings and reduce emissions. The centre is also recognised in the RSES as a ‘Key Change Location’ for driving innovation and the transition to a low carbon economy.  

Wexford has also been at the forefront of renewable energy development having a wind energy strategy in place since 2007  and has made a significant contribution to the State’s installed renewable energy (182 MW). Climate change has been underlying theme in the county development plan and local area plans since the Draft CDP in 2011. The Council is also a leading authority in building NZEB social housing and retrofitting social houses, resulting in important reductions in fuel poverty for occupants. 

As a Planning Authority the Council can ensure that spatial planning, through strategies and objectives in development plans and local area plans, address mitigation and adaptation to climate change which are the two terms usually used to explain climate change.  

Climate mitigation refers to efforts to reduce or prevent emission of greenhouse gases. Mitigation can mean using new technologies and renewable energies, making older equipment more energy efficient, or changing practices and behaviours e.g. encouraging more walking and cycling by providing footpaths and cycle paths. 

Climate adaptation is focused on anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. Examples include water conservation, ensuring buildings are designed for future climate conditions and weather events, building flood defences, planting crops and trees suitable to new climate, and avoiding unnecessary development in coastal areas at risk of coastal erosion and flooding. 

The CDP addresses climate change in so far as it relates to and can be influenced by spatial planning. It is an underlying theme and it expressly influenced the formulation of a number of strategies in the plan including settlement, movement, economic development, renewable energy, flood risk management and coastal zone management. The SEA Environmental Report and Natura Impact Report also considered climate change. Such is the importance ascribed to climate change, each chapter has been prefaced with a section detailing how the topic interacts with climate change.

To avoid duplication with other strategies and policy documents, including the Council’s Climate Adaptation Strategy, the CDP addresses climate change only in so far as it relates to spatial planning.  

2.2 Policy Context

Climate policy in Ireland has evolved rapidly in recent years with the Government fully committed to a long term climate policy based on the adoption of series of national plans over the period to 2050, informed by both UN and EU policy. Given the extensive array of climate change policy documents, a brief summary of the main policy documents and key issues as they relate to climate change and spatial planning is provided. 

2.2.1 National Policy Position 2014

This establishes the national objective of achieving transition to a competitive, low carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050. It sets out the context for the objective; clarifies the level of GHG mitigation ambition envisaged; and establishes the process to pursue and achieve the overall objective. Specifically, it envisages that policy development will be guided by a long-term vision based on: an aggregate reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of at least 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors in parallel, an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production. 

2.2.2 The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act, 2015

This Act placed climate change at the heart of Government policy and decision making. Amongst other things the Act made provision for two national plans; the National Mitigation Plan and the National Adaptation Framework. The Act requires local authorities to have regard to both in the performance of their functions and also requires local authorities to prepare Climate Change Adaptation Strategies setting out local level adaptation measures. 

2.2.3 National Mitigation Plan

Published in 2017, the National Mitigation Plan (NMP) outlines that spatial planning can make a significant contribution to addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation challenges, as well as helping to promote the transition required in the country’s energy system. This can be achieved by helping to shape new and existing developments in ways that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase resilience to the impacts of climate change and enable renewable energy obligations to be met. 

The NMP outlines that settlement patterns play a fundamental role in influencing how people travel, both the distances undertaken and the modal choice. Effectively meeting travel demand in a manner that avoids congestion and limits transport emissions requires effective spatial policies to be implemented at local and national levels. It notes that the spatial relationship between where a person lives, works, goes to school, shops and socialises forms the basis for demand. The provision of sustainable transport options is only realistic when people live close to employment centres and complementary services such as education, retail and leisure. 

Walking and cycling, in particular, also become more viable as transport options when the distance between such uses is reduced. It is clear that land use policy is a key determinant of transport investment decisions so it is vital that land use planning and transport planning are fully aligned. 

2.2.4 The National Adaptation Framework

 Published in 2018, the National Adaptation Framework (NAF) specifies the national strategy for the application of adaptation measures in different sectors and by local authorities in their administrative areas. It emphasises that climate change considerations need to be taken into account as a matter of course in planning/-related decision making processes and that progression of adaptation considerations in the planning and building standards processes is considered the most appropriate way of increasing the resilience of the built environment. 

It also emphasises that effective planning reduces vulnerability to the negative effects of climate change by integrating climate considerations into decision making in order to avoid inappropriate forms of development in vulnerable areas and promoting compact development in less vulnerable areas. 

2.2.5 Climate Action Plan 2019

The Climate Action Plan 2019 to Tackle Climate Breakdown contains 183 actions which will be implemented by 13 Government Departments and 40 agencies under the remit of those Departments. Actions relating to local authorities include signing up to the Climate Action Charter, the development of the Electric Vehicle (EV) charging network, the preparation of local adaptation strategies and the implementation of objectives for compact growth, in particular NPF NPO 3a, 3b and 3c with regard to targets for development within the existing building footprint of settlements. 

2.2.6 National Planning Framework 2040

The implementation of the NPF will ensure that the planning system responds successfully to the challenges of climate change and specifically those associated with how Ireland transitions successfully to a climate resilient economy by 2050. Amongst a number of strategic goals, the NPF aims to ensure better integration of land use and transport planning policy in order to reduce commuter travel demand and support more efficient patterns of development and travel. Investment in social, educational, health and employment spheres will all impact on the development of an integrated, efficient and sustainable transport system. 

NSO1 Compact Growth, NSO 5 Sustainable Mobility, NSO 8 Transition to a local carbon and climate resilient society and NSO 9 Sustainable management of water, waste and other environmental resources all embed climate change at the heart of the NPF and planning at national, regional and local level.  

2.2.7 National Development Plan

The National Development Plan (NDP) includes objectives in relation to the aim of transitioning to a low carbon and climate resilient society, including €940 million for flood risk management projects. 

The NDP also established a Climate Action Fund with an allocation of at least €500 million to 2027. The fund will support initiatives that contribute to the achievement of Ireland's climate and energy targets in a cost effective manner. It offers the potential for innovative interventions which, in the absence of support from the Fund, would not otherwise be developed.

The Fund will also seek to facilitate projects that contribute to other Government policy priorities including:

  •  Supporting innovation and capacity building towards the development of climate change solutions capable of being scaled and delivering benefits beyond a once-off impact
  • Generating wider socio-economic benefits such as job creation, air quality improvements, reduction in fuel poverty, bio-diversity and community resilience and development.

2.2.8 Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Region

The RSES aims to build a strong, resilient, sustainable region by implementing 11 strategy statements, of which climate action is embedded in 7 of those statements. It supports the implementation of the Climate Action Plan 2019, and has identified three priority areas for action to address climate change and to bring about a transition of a low carbon economy and society – decarbonisation, climate resilience and resource efficiency. The RSES prioritises action on climate change across all strategic areas and in all economic sectors, and outlines that combined effort is required to implement objectives for compact growth, sustainable travel and place-making to reduce travel demand between residential areas and centres of employment and education. The key RPOs listed below are incorporated into the relevant chapters/strategies in the CDP: 

Table 2-1 Key Climate Action Regional Planning Objectives

RPO No.

Focus

RPO 87

Low carbon energy future

RPO 88

National Mitigation Plan and National Adaptation Framework

RPO 89

Building resilience to climate change

RPO 90

Regional decarbonisation

RPO 91-93

Decarbonisation in the transport Sector, EV and CNG Infrastructure

RPO 94

Decarbonisation in the agricultural sector

RPOs 95-103

Sustainable renewable energy generation and supporting infrastructure

2.2.9 County Wexford Climate Adaptation Strategy 2019-2024

The county’s first climate adaptation strategy was adopted in September 2019. Its purpose is to ensure a proper comprehension of the key risks and vulnerabilities of climate change, to bring forward the implementation of climate resilient actions in a planned and proactive manner; and to ensure that climate adaptation considerations are mainstreamed into all plans and policies and integrated into all operations and functions of the Council.

According to the baseline information, agriculture (43%), transport (22%) and residential (18%) accounted for 83% of the county’s CO2 emissions in 20061. The remaining 17% was attributed to commercial (8%), industry (7%), and the public sector (2%).

The strategy is developed around 6 key themes, most of which have relevance for the Council’s planning functions. Each of these themes is underpinned by a set of objectives and actions which have been incorporated, where relevant, into the CDP strategies and objectives. 

Table 2-2 Thematic Areas in the Wexford County Council Climate Adaptation Strategy

No.

Theme

1

Local Adaptation Governance and Business Operations

2

Infrastructure and the Built Environment

3

Land Use and Development

4

Drainage and Flood Management

5

Natural Resources and Cultural Infrastructure

6

Community Health and Wellbeing

2.3 Climate Change in County Wexford

Research at national level has shown that changes in Ireland’s climate are in line with global trends. For Ireland, climate change impacts are expected to increase over the coming decades and could include the following:

  • sea level rise,
  • more intense storms and rainfall events,
  • increased likelihood and magnitude of river and coastal flooding, 
  • water shortages in summer in the east
  • adverse impacts on water quality
  • changes in distribution of plant and animal species
  • effects on fisheries sensitive to changes in temperature

There are particular areas and land uses that will be vulnerable to these predicted changes in our climate. 

2.3.1 Critical Infrastructure

This infrastructure is essential for the functioning of the county and includes transport, energy, communications, water services and health services and depending on its location it may be vulnerable to the impacts of climate change in extreme weather events, flooding and coastal erosion.  New infrastructure must be climate resilient so as to minimise the impacts on people, property and businesses.

2.3.2 Rivers and Water

Many of the county’s main settlements developed around rivers and some of these settlements are already vulnerable to flooding e.g. Enniscorthy Town and New Ross Town.  Increased rainfall will result in flooding events and pressures on flood defences. 

Flooding can also have adverse impacts on water quality. The availability of water sources and the capacity of water bodies to assimilate wastewater discharges when water levels are low in rivers during longer and drier periods will also need to be considered in water resource planning.

2.3.3 Coastal Areas and the Marine Sector

Many of the county’s settlements have developed along the coastline and the marine and fisheries sector is also very important for the county’s economy. The increased coastal flood risk from sea level rise and increased intensity of storms poses a threat to coastal communities and sectors operating in the coastal zone. Increased storm intensity will exacerbate coastal erosion particularly the soft shorelines and this will pose a threat to property and infrastructure.  It will therefore be necessary to strictly control the nature and type of future development in these areas, carefully manage the location and siting of development and ensure that new infrastructure is climate resilient so as to minimise the impacts on people, property and infrastructure.  

2.3.4 Built Heritage

Managing and adapting to the effects of climate change on the historic built environment, in particular the county’s archaeological and architectural heritage, will be very important.  Historic buildings have already experienced and survived the effects of climatic change, in many cases over several centuries, leaving a building stock of proven resilience. However, the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events mean that all structures, including historic ones, need to be kept in a good state of repair to resist damage from a variety of threats2.

2.3.5 Tourism

Climate change will impact on tourism in the county in a number of ways. The potential warmer climate offers opportunities to extend the tourist season and as a result significantly enhance its economic potential. The county’s coastal areas including beaches are also valuable for tourism as are the many historical and cultural heritage sites in these areas.  As coastal areas are at risk of coastal erosion and flooding, there is a need to consider the vulnerability of our beaches and the cultural heritage sites and consider their future protection.

2.3.6 Agriculture, Forestry and Biodiversity

Agriculture and forestry are important sectors in our local economy.  The changing climate, in particular temperature, rainfall, soil quality and extreme weather events will affect crop, food and tree production. Forestry will play an important role in mitigation as trees acts as carbon sinks helping to reduce greenhouse gases emissions.  Biodiversity is vulnerable to climate change however it offers opportunities for both mitigation and adaptation. In particular coastal features such as wetlands and dunes perform flood attenuation and protection for erosion. Similarly wetlands and floodplains of rivers provide natural attenuation from fluvial flooding and vegetated riverbanks provide protection from erosion and filtration of floodwaters. The protection and enhancement of the county’s green infrastructure and biodiversity will be therefore a very important component of any climate change strategy. 

2.4 Climate Action Spatial Planning Strategy

2.4.1 Goal

To protect the people, buildings, infrastructure, businesses and ecosystems in County Wexford against the negative impacts of climate change, build resilience to climate change, change our behaviours and patterns of development to lessen the extent of climate change and take advantage of any opportunities that climate change may bring. This will require the Council, key stakeholders, businesses and communities to work together. 

2.4.2 Mitigation and Spatial Planning

This is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, using sustainable renewable energy sources and moving to a low carbon economy. In this regard, the CDP includes objectives to:

  • Facilitate a modal shift towards sustainable transport options, encouraging the use of electric vehicles by ensuring EV infrastructure is in place, and to work with transport providers to develop public transport options across the county, both in urban and rural areas.
  • Delivering compact growth, through increasing densities, developing brownfield sites and infilling the redundant areas of our towns and villages and facilitating the development of mixed residential and commercial areas which will reduce the distance people need to travel to their homes, workplaces and other amenities and services.
  • Increase employment opportunities within the county so as to reduce the amount of unsustainable commuting out of the county for work, much of which is car-based commuting.
  • Facilitate sustainable agriculture such as afforestation which not only acts as a carbon sink but is a source of renewable fuel and biomass.
  • Facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy which is focused on clean, low carbon technologies and promotes the development of sustainable renewable energy sources such as wind, tidal and solar energy as a means of reducing dependencies on fossil fuels. 
  • In line with the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive Recast ensure that all new buildings be Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) by 31st December 2020.
  • Maximise the opportunities offered by the presence of the UN European Centre of Excellence in High Performance Buildings in Enniscorthy Town and help develop standards that will improve energy efficiency in buildings and significantly reduce emissions.

2.4.3 Adaptation and Spatial Planning

The aim of adaptation is to reduce the vulnerability of our county, economy and environment and increase resilience. Adaptation brings opportunity through green growth, innovation, jobs and ecosystem enhancement as well as improvements in areas such as water and air quality.  In this regard, the CDP includes objectives to:

  • Ensure new critical infrastructure such as transport, communications, waste and water facilities and energy supply is managed and controlled to avoid areas at risk of coastal or river flooding and/or coastal erosion.
  • Ensure that vulnerable developments are directed away from areas at risk in particular coastal areas at risk of erosion and flooding and areas at risk of flooding from rivers. 
  • Protect and expand the county’s biodiversity and green infrastructure as it provide many benefits including the regulation of temperature, reduction in storm flows and provides clean water and air.
  • Consider the conversion or maintenance of land at risk of flooding to less vulnerable uses e.g. parks, gardens and open spaces for natural habitats where such land is does not form part of the riparian zone or riparian buffer and where it would not interfere with the flood regulation functions of the floodplain.
  • Continue to work with the OPW in the development of flood relief schemes and the maintenance of existing flood defences.
  • Require new developments to demonstrate that energy planning and energy efficiency has been considered in the design of the building and the site layout and ensure that the location, layout and design of new development accommodate predicted future climate change impacts. This approach will require innovative building design, new materials and standards (to accommodate hotter summers while withstanding changes in precipitation patterns and more intense storms for example). When assessing applications, the planning authority will be cognisant of the requirements of adaptation.

Climate Action Strategic Objectives3

It is the objective of the Council:

Objective CA01

To ensure that the spatial planning of County Wexford provides for a county that is resilient to climate change, enables the decarbonisation of the county’s economy and reduces the county’s carbon footprint in support of national targets for climate mitigation and adaptation objectives as well as targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Objective CA02

To implement the National Mitigation Plan and National Adaptation Framework through the strategies and objectives of the County Development Plan and in future local area plans.

Objective CA03 

To implement the County Wexford Climate Adaptation Strategy 2019-2024 in future local area plans and the assessment of planning applications.

Objective CA04

To implement the Energy Strategy contained in Volume 10 of the Wexford County Development Plan to facilitate the transition to a low carbon county.   

Objective CA05

To support and maximise the opportunities offered by the presence of the United Nations Centre of Excellence on Nearly Zero Energy Buildings in Enniscorthy Town and to support the designation of this centre as the National Centre for the Ireland. 

Objective CA06

To utilise the Climate Action Fund established under the National Development Plan to facilitate public and private climate mitigation and adaptation projects in line with criteria set out by the Fund at that time.  

Objective CA07

To implement, through the CDP and future local areas plans, sustainable settlement and transportation strategies in urban and rural areas including measures to reduce energy demand in response to the likelihood of increases in energy and other costs due to long-term decline in non-renewable resources, reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and address the necessity of adaptation to climate change in particular, having regard to location, layout and design of new development. 

Objective CA08

 

To support measures to build resilience to climate change  including adaptive capacity, awareness and providing for nature-based solutions and emergency planning and to raise awareness of the role of spatial planning in climate change mitigation and adaptation through the forward planning and development management functions of the Planning Authority. 

Objective CA09

To ensure future local area plans adopt sustainable spatial planning frameworks which successfully integrate land use and transportation and facilitate mixed use developments as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonising the county. 

Objective CA10

To require new developments to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change by ensuring they are appropriately located, sited and designed to accommodate predicted future climate change impacts.

Objective CA11

To carry out climate adaptation measures such as developing NZEB social housing and retrofitting local authority housing,  ensuring new public buildings are NZEB and retrofitting exiting public buildings, promoting jobs and innovation in the green economy through the Local Enterprise Office and Economic Development Section, facilitating EV infrastructure in public car parks, ensuring flood risk management in conjunction with the Office of Public Works, promoting water conservation in conjunction with Irish Water, incorporating biodiversity and green infrastructure planning into local authority own developments including residential schemes, public parks, open spaces, walking trails and greenways.

Objective CA12

To support the decarbonisation of the energy sector by supporting the implementation of the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan and investment in initiatives to improve energy efficiency and future proof the county’s residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and public building stock, including retrofitting in urban and rural areas and reduction in fuel poverty. The Council will also support the development of sustainable buildings that achieve certification under systems such as the Home Performance Index and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Objective CA13

To support change across business, public and residential sectors to achieve reduced greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with current and future national targets, improve energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energy source across the key sectors of electricity supply, heating, transport and agriculture.

Objective CA14

To support decarbonisation in the transport sector by facilitating initiatives that promote the use of clean generated electricity biogas, hydrogen and other non-fossil fuels for private and public transportation,  and provide clean energy and lower carbon fuelling and electric vehicle charging stations and infrastructure at appropriate locations including consideration of electric, hydrogen, compressed natural gas (CNG)/biogas.

Objective CA15

To require the provision of Electric Vehicle charging point infrastructure infrastructure and solar panels (the latter where possible and practicable) within residential, commercial and mixed use developments, and to support investment in the sustainable development of Electric Vehicle charging facilities aligned with the transportation networks in the county and the region and CNG refuelling stations aligned with the TEN-T corridors as a renewable technology for servicing public service vehicles and commercial fleets.

Objective CA16

To support the decarbonisation of the agricultural sector by facilitating initiatives that advance an approach to achieve carbon neutrality for agriculture and land use that does not compromise sustainable food production through programmes such as the Green Low-Carbon Agri-environment Scheme (GLAS) and other relevant mitigation and adaptation programmes and initiatives of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.
  • 1- The most accurate information for total emissions in Wexford County is based on Census 2006 data. Using this data, WCC was able to calculate that the total emissions for County Wexford amounted to 1,882,699 tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2006.
  • 2-  National Adaptation Framework, page 68
  • 3-  Mitigation and adaptation to climate change is reflected/embedded in many objectives throughout the CDP.

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