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An Taoiseach and Minister Denis Naughten welcomes work of Citizens’ Assembly on climate action

Saturday, September 30th 2017

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, T.D., and the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, T.D., today (Saturday, September 30th) welcomes the meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly to consider the topic of ‘Making Ireland a leader in tackling Climate Change’. It is the first meeting of the Assembly on the topic of Climate Change.

An Taoiseach noted:

“The broad representation of Irish society that makes up the Assembly creates an opportunity to bring together a diverse range of views on one of the most pressing challenges facing Ireland. My Government is committed to addressing climate change and I was pleased to be able to devote a special Cabinet meeting on the topic in July of this year. I commend the Assembly, under the chairmanship of Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, for taking on this task and I look forward to the Houses of the Oireachtas receiving the report and recommendations of the Assembly in due course.”

Commenting on the start of the Assembly’s proceedings, Minister Naughten said:

“The fact that the Citizens’ Assembly received 1,200 submissions on the topic of climate change in its public consultation phase indicates the strength of views within Irish society on the need for Ireland to address this challenge. I am looking forward to receiving a report on the work of the Assembly this weekend and again in November when its second meeting on the topic will take place.

On the relationship between the work of the Citizens’ Assembly and the National Dialogue on Climate Action, Minister Naughten continued:

“I am particularly keen to learn the Assembly’s views on how the National Dialogue on Climate Action should engage with the wider public to create awareness, engagement and motivation to act in relation to the challenges of climate change. I expect that this will provide a valuable base of evidence and ideas from which to draw on in the preparation of further activities under the National Dialogue in the coming months, including proposals for regional workshops and local community events.”

Adding that Government responsibility and leadership needs to be complemented by citizen engagement, Minister Naughten said:

“The challenges of climate change are not simple ones, and the actions we need to take will not take place overnight. Our transition to a low carbon and climate resilient economy will depend on incremental action and behavioural change, and will depend upon strong leadership, concrete policies, and committed engagement by all. The Government launched Ireland’s first statutory National Mitigation Plan in July of this year. This is a plan which sets out the context for our climate change objective, clarifies the level of greenhouse gas mitigation ambition Ireland needs, and establishes the process by which we will pursue and achieve our decarbonisation goals. I see the Plan as a living document which will be refined and built on, a process which will need the input from the Citizens Assembly and the National Dialogue in order to achieve its goals.”

The work of the Citizens’ Assembly in relation to climate builds on other significant milestones in national climate policy in 2017. Minister Naughten is currently consulting on a draft of the first National Adaptation Framework. These strategies represent whole-of-Government approaches to the national transition to a low carbon and climate resilient economy by 2050. In relation to mitigation, this will require Ireland to:

- reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by at least 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050 across Electricity generation, Built environment and Transport sectors; and
- to pursue an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.

Reflecting the Government’s commitment to pursuing the national transition objective, the draft National Planning Framework, published for final consultation this week, also includes climate change as one of its key pillars. Minister Naughten noted:

“Ireland 2040 has been developed in a way that takes full account of, and will be a key implementation instrument for, the National Mitigation Plan on climate change and further work on climate change adaptation as we transition to a low carbon economy and society. In addition, the National Planning Framework sets a strategic development context for the roll-out of high speed broadband networks in rural Ireland, energy systems and infrastructure, and the sustainable development of our natural resources.”

The strategic Cabinet meeting on climate change, which was held on 19 July this year, which marked the launch of Ireland’s first National Mitigation Plan, was a valuable opportunity to highlight the leadership roles to be played by individual Ministers in driving the progress of Ireland’s transition to a low carbon and climate resilient economy. At this meeting, the Government agreed:

- that Climate Change is one of the most important long-term challenges facing Ireland and that the Government is committed to the transformation required to achieve a low carbon and climate resilient future;
- to focus all Government Departments and agencies on implementing the Mitigation Plan;
- to develop further actions across each sector for inclusion in the Plan over the years ahead;
- that the forthcoming Budget and 10 Year Capital Plan will be informed by the need for Climate Action;
- that a National Climate Change Adaptation Framework, to deal with the impacts of Climate Change on Ireland, will be published by the end of the year; and
- that there will be intensive engagement with citizens and awareness raising through the National Dialogue on Climate Action.

Ends/

Notes for Editors

Citizens’ Assembly
The Citizens’ Assembly was established by a resolution of Dáil Éireann, on foot a Programme for Partnership Government commitment, with a mandate to look at a number of key issues of Irish importance to Irish society over an extended time period.

The Citizens’ Assembly will consider the topic of climate change over the weekends of 30 September/ 1 October and 4/5 November. Further information is available here.

National Dialogue on Climate Action
 The Minister for Communication, Climate Action and Environment announced earlier this year that the Government was establishing a National Dialogue on Climate Action. This is in line with the commitment set out in the Programme for a Partnership Government. In a subsequent announcement, alongside the publication of the National Mitigation Plan on 19 July last, the Minister announced the establishment of an Advisory Group to provide me with advice in relation to the overall strategy, structure and operation of the National Dialogue. The Advisory Group held its first meeting in July.

The primary objective of the National Dialogue will be to ensure an inclusive process of engagement and consensus building across society towards enabling the transformation to a low carbon and climate-resilient future. To do this, the Dialogue will seek to create awareness, engagement and motivation to act (locally, regionally and nationally) in relation to the challenges presented by climate change and to establish, on a long term basis, appropriate networks for people to meet periodically to consider evidence-based inputs on the economic, social, behavioural, environmental and public aspects of climate and energy policy.

National Dialogue initiatives already announced for 2017 include the Green Schools National Climate Change Action and Awareness Programme, incorporating Climate Action Week between 16 and 20 October and the Green Schools Climate Expo on 22 February 2018, and the Climate Ambassador Programme which was formally launched earlier this month.

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