Ministers pledge further action to deliver energy efficient homes, offshore renewable energy and nature-based solutions for the climate
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, and his departmental colleagues Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government and Planning, Peter Burke TD, and Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan TD, have welcomed the recent publication of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 and pledged to deliver the Interim Climate Actions 2021 relating to their department.
The Minister’s also welcomed the approval given at Cabinet for the National Marine Planning Framework, a step identified in the Interim Climate Actions 2021 for facilitating the development of offshore wind energy. The framework will be the key decision-making tool for Government departments, State agencies, regulatory authorities and policy makers for decisions on marine activities.
Speaking this morning, Minister O’Brien said: “The Government’s publications represent a new departure in Government ambition for climate action. My Department will be to the fore in meeting the challenge of getting to net zero emissions by 2050 across a range of actions on housing, planning, marine and natural heritage protection and analysis of Ireland’s climate.
”Cabinet have now approved the National Marine Planning Framework, which will go to the Oireachtas for approval by way of resolution. The National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) is a plan which will set out, over a 20 year horizon, how we want to use, protect and enjoy our seas. The NMPF will sit at the top of the hierarchy of plans and sectoral policies for the marine area and will be critical to the deployment of offshore wind energy. This document sets out the proposed forward planning framework within which our renewable energy targets can be met.
“Delivery of energy efficient housing stock is another tool in our armoury when it comes to climate action. This year, I have allocated €65 million for retrofitting about 2,400 social homes to a B2 or equivalent Building Energy Rating. That work will make homes warmer, more comfortable and more efficient to heat, and will help protect householders’ health through better air quality. Recent Nearly Zero Energy Building Regulations for new builds are making all new residential dwellings 70% more energy efficient than performance requirements in 2005. The requirements for buildings undergoing major renovation - where more than 25% of the surface area is renovated - to achieve a B2 BER or equivalent, will also significantly improve the energy performance of existing dwellings.”
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, spoke about the role of protecting the natural heritage and marine in taking action against climate change. “The sustainable management and conservation of Ireland’s natural and built heritage has a critical role to play in our response to the climate and biodiversity emergency. My Department is working with Bord na Móna and other State agencies, landowners, farmers and a range of partners - as well as community groups and other stakeholders - on a number of peatlands restoration and management projects that will help lock carbon in by the restoration of raised bog and blanket bog habitats, and also through the rehabilitation of previously exploited industrial peatlands. We are also supporting research projects to assess the condition of Irish peatlands, their role in carbon cycling and the impact on national greenhouse gas emissions. Continued implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021 is another climate-related priority of mine.
“In addition to conserving marine species and habitats, Marine Protected Areas can reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification. Our current work aimed at creating a network of Marine Protected Areas constituting 30% of Ireland’s maritime area will also play a part in national action on climate.”
Minister of State for Planning and Local Government, Peter Burke TD, spoke of the Department’s role in reforming the planning system as part of decarbonisation. “The planning system is central to enabling decarbonisation. A central reform will be the enactment of legislation to give a legal underpinning to the new marine planning system. The Government intends publishing the Maritime Area Planning Bill in April and this Bill, when enacted, will be critical to facilitating offshore wind energy. The new marine planning system will balance our huge offshore wind energy potential with the need to protect our marine environment. I recently signed into law regulations increasing the exemptions for specified electric vehicle charging infrastructure for on-street and off-street parking locations from the requirement to obtain planning permission. I also intend to publish revised planning guidelines on wind energy developments and further exempted development regulations on solar panels as soon as practicable.”
Minister O’Brien also highlighted the role of Met Éireann, a division of the department, in national work related to climate change. “Met Éireann’s scientists continue to help us improve our understanding of Ireland’s changing climate and to co-create and deliver climate services. They will provide tools that enhance our knowledge and understanding of the impacts of climate on our decisions and actions. A changing climate will indeed affect all of us in Ireland. In that context, Met Éireann and its partners’ work in providing and analysing the latest climate information and projections to help Irish society develop plans to adapt to climate change and future extreme weather.”
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