New report gives first ever national picture of local authority climate actions

New report gives first ever national picture of local authority climate actions
Less than half of councils use electric or hybrid vehicles as part of their fleet for day-to-day operations

Just 12 of Ireland's 31 local authorities have developed a tree management policy and just 14 reported that they measure water use in local authority buildings.

And less than half of councils use electric or hybrid vehicles as part of their fleet for day-to-day operations, despite transport accounting for 20% of Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions.

A new report has provided the first-ever national picture of local authority climate actions. The research was carried out by the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA), the state agency which reports on the performance of local authorities.

The research found some major gaps in local authority climate actions to date but it determined that half of all local authorities will exceed their energy saving targets by 2030.

Councils have invested more than €120m in energy efficiency projects, preventing more than 60,000 tonnes of CO2 from being produced, the equivalent emissions produced by 11,000 homes annually.

The actions profiled in the report took place in the period 2011 to 2018 and pre-date last year's announcement of the government's National Climate Action Plan, which included 183 actions for the public sector to commit to in order to meet the target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Local authorities are identified as lead or key stakeholders in 30 actions under this plan.

Among the key findings included in the report are:

  • Just 15 of the 31 local authorities reported they are on course to exceed their 2020 target of 33% energy efficiency
  • Some 280,000 lights are to be upgraded to energy-efficient LED, reducing carbon emissions by 31,000 tonnes annually
  • Some 20 local authorities are piloting Nearly Zero Energy Buildings in their social housing
  • Councils spent €101m responding to weather emergencies between 2014 and 2018, with spend focusing on clean-up, road repair and disaster recovery
  • Fourteen local authorities reported that they measure water use in local authority buildings. A further five local authorities were in the process of doing so
  • Local authorities planted 74,000 trees between 2017 and 2018 and some 18 local authorities have trialled alternative weed control methods to herbicides
  • Just eight local authorities have incorporated green roofs in council buildings as part of new buildings or upgrades

LGMA carried out the research on behalf of the County and City Management Association (CCMA). Paddy Mahon, chair of the CCMA, said that councils are poised to meet their obligations and this will include training for 28,000 members of staff.

"This will involve technical training as well as training in leadership, community engagement and behavioural change," he said.

The report provides a snapshot that allows local authorities to learn from each other, according to Dr Bernie O'Donoghue Hynes, LGMA Head of Research.

"The research shows that local authorities have been taking a proactive approach to climate and environmental sustainability for some time, prioritising the needs of their areas and basing their response on prevailing risks in their jurisdictions," she said.

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