September 6th, 2017
The diverse and wide-ranging impacts of climate change on Ireland’s environment, society, economic and natural resources are “locked-in” for decades to come, according to the 2017 National Risk Assessment (NRA).
The annual assessment conducted by the Department of the Taoiseach seeks to identify current and future risks to the State in geopolitical, economic, environmental, social, and technological areas.
Notable changes since 2016 include the intensification of risks arising from external sources, namely Brexit and a more general perception of increased geopolitical instability.
Brexit is recognised as an “overarching risk with multiple impacts and influences across the five categories”, while climate change is also recognised as a significant risk.
The assessment finds that the scale and rate of climate change in Ireland are “consistent with regional and global trends”, with impacts projected to increase over the coming decades.
Predicted impacts include an increased likelihood and magnitude of river and coastal flooding, water shortages in summer, increased risk of new pests and diseases; and adverse impacts on water quality and the lifecycle events of both plant and animal species.
The NRA also highlights the potential cost of Ireland failing to meet our 2020 emissions reduction target for the non-Emission Trading Scheme sector – agriculture, transport, the built environment, waste and non-energy intensive industry – of 20 per cent below 2005 levels.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we are currently on track to reduce this figure by only four to six per cent, leaving Ireland as only a handful of EU Member States unlikely to hit their 2020 targets.
The assessment also finds that Ireland’s 2030 non-ETS emissions reduction target will also pose a significant challenge in terms of the State matching the required level of investment to achieve compliance.
The Assessment states that strategies “beyond those that are already in place” must be devised to “reduce and manage” the risks posed to Irish society by climate change through a combination of “mitigation and adaptation responses”.
“There is also an economic rationale for adaptation action, where the cost of inaction exceeds the cost of action and where this cost differential rises steeply with time”, the report continues.
“Failure to renew and enhance clear infrastructural capabilities within an overall strategically planned approach will impact on our quality of life, the competitiveness of our places and our capability to meet new environmental challenges.”