Climate Change presents Local Authorities with unprecedented challenges. Not only must the sector deliver on statutory obligations in national and international legislation and commitments, it must also take a lead role in advancing technical, infrastructural and behaviour change in society to achieve a low carbon and climate resilient Ireland.
In 2017, the County and City Management Association developed a business case for the resources needed to support the Local Authority sector in delivering on climate adaptation actions and objectives. They recommended the establishment of Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs) with the necessary competence and expertise required to assist and coordinate climate adaptation across Local Authorities.
The need to develop the CAROs was reflected in both the National Adaptation Framework and the National Mitigation Plan. Following the publication of the National Adaptation Framework in 2018, funding of €10 million over a 5-year period was announced to establish four CAROs.
Atlantic Seaboard North
Atlantic Seaboard South
Eastern & Midlands CARO
Dublin Metropolitian CARO
The commitment of the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications in their funding and support of the CAROs is greatly acknowledged and appreciated.
The regional structure of the CAROs was designed around the geographical and topographical characteristics, vulnerabilities and shared climate risks experienced across Local Authority areas.
Two of the CAROs, Atlantic Seaboard North and Atlantic Seaboard South focus on Atlantic Seaboard counties, providing the opportunity to specialise in common issues such as coastal erosion, and flooding along the west coast.
The Eastern & Midlands CARO focuses on Central, Eastern and Midland counties, facilitating the development of expertise in different issues such as fluvial flooding.
The Dublin Metropolitan CARO provides a focus on the Greater Dublin Region, allowing specific expertise to be developed for this largely urban environment.
Each of the CAROs is led by a regional coordinator, supported by a team of Regional Executives/Assistants and Administrative Support.
With the publication of the Climate Action Plan and the signing of the Local Authority Climate Action Charter in 2019, significant additional responsibility and ambition were placed on the Local Authority sector in terms of climate action. In 2020, the government published a new climate law that commits Ireland to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
This new amendment to the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2020 emphasises the need for greater climate action at regional and local level. The law also requires Local Authorities to develop five-year Climate Action Plans, including mitigation and adaptation measures.
To ensure Local Authorities can lead on these increased expectations, the County and City Management Association developed a new Strategic Plan for Climate Action across Local Authorities as well as detailed business cases for an enhanced CARO structure, with increased staff and staffing resources for climate action across all Local Authorities.
The CAROs will continue to have a central role in supporting and coordinating climate actions undertaken by Local Authorities, the measurement and recording of key performance indicators, supporting advancement of behavioural change initiatives, competency development and training, and the identification and sourcing of ongoing funding opportunities for the benefit of the sector.