Climate Change Mitigation is a human intervention which involves reducing the flow of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This can be done either by reducing the sources of these gases (for example, the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat or transport) or enhancing the sinks that accumulate and store these gases (such as the oceans, forests and soil).
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change define mitigation as the:
“Technological change and substitution that reduce resource inputs and emissions per unit of output. Although several social, economic and technological policies would produce an emission reduction, with respect to climate change, mitigation means implementing policies to reduce GHG emissions and enhance sinks”
The goal of mitigation is to reduce future climate change by slowing the rate of increase in (or even reducing) greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases can come from a range of sources and climate mitigation can be applied across all sectors and activities. These include energy, transport, buildings, industry, waste management, agriculture, forestry and other forms of land management.
Mitigation strategies include retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient; adopting renewable energy sources like solar, wind and small hydro; helping cities develop more sustainable transport such as bus rapid transit, electric vehicles, and biofuels; and promoting more sustainable uses of land and forests.
Without additional efforts to reduce GHG emissions beyond those in place today, emissions growth is expected to persist driven by growth in global population and economic activities. Baseline scenarios, those without additional mitigation, result in global mean surface temperature increases in 2100 from 3.7°C to 4.8°C compared to pre-industrial levels (median values; the range is 2.5°C to 7.8°C when including climate uncertainty) (UN Environment Programme).
However, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ‘1.5-Degree Report’ illustrates that it’s not too late to reduce the worst effects of global warming and confirms prompt actions now will minimise the economic costs.
Apart from the vital decarbonisation aspect, there are several co-benefits associated with mitigation actions.
Broadly speaking, mitigation should improve energy efficiency and security, stimulate innovation and the creation of new industries and markets.
Beyond this, other positive impacts include improvement in human health due to less air pollution and increased activity.
Whilst climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st Century, action to combat it is likely to be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st Century.
Climate change mitigation and adaptation are not mutually exclusive but are key partners in any strategy to respond to climate change. Mitigation is required to reduce climate risks in the 21st century and beyond, increase prospects for effective adaptation, reduce the costs and challenges of mitigation in the longer term and contribute to climate-resilient pathways for sustainable development.
While climate change is fundamentally a global issue, the institutions needed for mitigation exist at many different domains of government, including the local and national level.
National Mitigation Plan 2017
Ireland's National Mitigation Plan, which was published in July 2017 and prepared under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, represented an initial step in transitioning Ireland to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050. This plan represents the first step in an ongoing process in the development of medium to long term mitigation choices for the next and future decades.
Further information on the National Mitigation Plan can be found here
Climate Action Plan 2019
The Climate Action Plan published in July 2019 evolved from the 2017 Citizens Assembly’s third report and recommendations. The Plan sets out 183 actions to be undertaken to achieve ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction levels by 2030 in line with legally binding EU commitments, with national net zero emissions committed to by 2050.
The plan recognises the important role of Local Authorities in changing how they operate and provide services and in leading the transition to a low carbon, resilient and sustainable society. Local authorities named as lead/key stakeholders in 30 of the actions related to built environment, more energy, transport and waste management and are directly involved in many more.
Further information on the Climate Action Plan 2019 can be found here
Local Authorities & Mitigation
Local Authorities have a key role to play in addressing climate change mitigation action. In addition to meeting their 2030 energy and emission targets, they are well placed to assess, exploit and support opportunities within their administrative areas, in cooperation with each other and with national bodies, and through the involvement and support of local communities.