Embedding resilience at the heart of adaptation
Notwithstanding global efforts to limit a rise in climate temperature to within 1.5 degrees, Ireland will still expect effects from a rising temperature and must prepare for this, as well as for beyond 1.5 degrees. This requires a two-pronged approach through mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation is about changing how we live, travel, consume and manufacture and requires a large scale and fundamental shift in how we best use land and natural resources. Adaptation focuses on the expected impacts and the practical actions that society need to take in order to manage the risks and protect communities.
Building resilience across all of society is essential for a successful transition to a low carbon economy and society. Recently we included submissions to the public consultations for the draft City, and County Climate Adaptation Strategies, while asking for commitment to develop dedicated and comprehensive climate change mitigation strategies to work in parallel with adaptation efforts. Without a shadow of doubt, we need to be implementing actions immediately to support a thriving and sustainable Cork region and we very much welcomed this opportunity to engage with the draft plans for Cork, and which have now been adopted by the Councils.
The effects of climate change are being felt now, with weather related incidences such as Hurricane Lorenzo now a real threat. The EPA’s Climate Change Research Programme undertake ongoing analysis and studies on climate change in Ireland. Through analysis of the meteorological records, evidence shows that Ireland’s climate is changing in line with global patterns with impacts set to increase in the coming decades and heightening in the second half of the century. Impacts include sea level rise, more intense storms and rainfall, increased likelihood and magnitude of river and coastal flooding, adverse impacts on water quality, changes in distribution of plant and animal species, and effects on fisheries.
Resilience building is key, and this will be particularly urgent for communities in vulnerable, low lying fluvial, pluvial and coastal flood prone locations. We don’t have to cast our memories back too far to know how Cork City is especially vulnerable, with business and residential communities being severely impacted in the past. Over the last two decades, Cork has incurred an estimated €150m in damages from the 2004, 2009 and 2014 flood events, with associated uncertainty and difficulties for businesses and homeowners to secure insurance.
Top down and bottom up approach
Above all, to be effective, strategies need to be based on a top down and bottom up approach involving businesses, communities and individuals in this all of society challenge. A focus on implementation, monitoring and evaluation is vital, as well as the updating of strategy actions to align with changing conditions. Preparedness and proactivity will be key in countering the worst effects of changing climate patterns, and it is essential that these Climate Adaptation Strategies are meaningfully supported by funding from Central Government to safeguard economic, environmental and social resilience, and to support our local authorities.
As part of the Chamber submissions to the consultations, we emphasised the strength of robust and diverse stakeholder involvement, a bottom up and top down approach and the need for agility in the strategies. We queried the specific timeframes included and meant by short, medium- and long-term actions and sought clarity on the duration of each timeframe, believing the inclusion of a more specific breakdown of these timeframes would assist monitoring and review, with each action having a set period of implementation.
The inclusion of natural resilience through green infrastructure, and nature for climate adaptation, the inclusion of climate resilient designs and materials and the criticality of energy efficiency, water conservation and renewable energy solutions as part of new developments are a must. We need to be developing Cork in a way that is prudent, futureproofing as we go, and resilient incorporating nature-based solutions to enhance resilience, health, food security with planting for pollinators, heat/ air pollutant abatement through tree planting, wellbeing as well as placemaking.
The focus within the strategies on climate considerations in design, planning and tendering processes in the construction of infrastructure projects is a must to ensure the safety and reliability of infrastructure, as well as the longevity and resilience of the investment in capital expenditure projects. All in all, it’s essential that ongoing engagement and participation across all communities is a central pillar to ensure representative discussions of future pathways, and the empowerment of the business community and wider communities locally in the implementation of these strategies.