Establishment of 4 Climate Action Regional Offices – Dublin Metropolitan, East & Midlands, Atlantic Seaboard North, Atlantic Seaboard South

Climate change requires comprehensive responses at local and regional level which makes local government critical to the delivery of national and international policies. The establishment of four Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs) as Centres of Excellence based on distinct geographic/topographic characteristics enables them to advise local authorities in their region on climate action strategies ensuring a coordinated response and assisting with the roll-out of national/regional policies at local level.

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Climate change requires comprehensive responses at the local and regional level. Local government is therefore critical to the delivery of national and international policies. The local government sector’s statutory obligation is to rollout national and regional plans at local level and to formulate and adopt Adaptation and Mitigation Plans and implement actions. Additionally, the sector is required to deliver on actions arising from the Adaptation and Mitigation Plans of other State agencies. The sector is therefore an important agent in determining the success of Ireland’s climate change obligations.
Challenges for local government are unprecedented. Climate change impacts and measures to adapt do not respect local authority boundaries. Experience to date in responding to severe weather events has recognized the value and necessity for close engagement with adjacent local authorities both in the planning and response stages to such events.

Four CAROs that operate based on distinct geographic and topographic characteristics have been established in Ireland and each region is exposed to different climatic risks. Each CARO therefore has appropriate expertise to develop Regional Adaptation Strategies and advise local authorities in the region on the formulation and implementation of their individual Local Plans. Ensuring consistency across the various local authority plans regionally and dealing with cross-boundary issues within and across the regions will eventually lead to a new model of collaboration with an emphasis on good governance, leadership, strategic planning and societal learning.

CAROs are working to understand regional vulnerabilities and develop approaches that will foster resilience to future climate risks.
The regional offices will encourage economies of scale, avoid costly mistakes and drive preparedness for future climate risk. The approach will help develop a constituency of support within local authorities, amongst the public and at all levels of governance.

The CAROs will establish and facilitate regional authority and agency teams to lead the adaptation planning process and develop overarching regional adaptation strategies. Each CARO will share and exploit regional commonalities in relation to data, know-how and will create synergies between LAs and other state agencies, leading to informed and more cost-effective decision making.

The regional climate action office structure ensures cohesive local authority planning at a regional level, having due regard to local authority interdependencies, broader regional issues and effective and efficient opportunities to build Ireland’s resilience to extreme weather events and long-term climate change. There also exists a danger that ‘mal-adaptation’ could occur when neighbouring local authority plans are not aligned with each other. For example, actions around flood risk management must be in line with those proposed for an entire catchment.

Separately, the local government sector will have a greater ability to meet targets set out in the various agreements and legislation if planning is coordinated at a regional level based on similar geographic and topographic characteristics. It is envisaged that the initial focus of the regional teams would be the formulation of regional adaptation plans. However, competence in adaptation would only form one element of their role, which would be extended to expertise in mitigation, data collection and measurement of key performance indicators, identification of EU funding opportunities and EU project management. It is further envisaged that the teams would engage with local authorities in their region in a ‘train the trainer’ capacity and broadening climate change knowledge and expertise throughout the local government sector.

In addition, the establishment of CAROs is expected to reduce public spending costs associated with the multiplicity of inputs in each local authority.
CAROs also enable expertise to be extended firstly nationally and potentially on a European and international basis. Few examples of such an innovative methodological approach based on geography and topography exist at an EU level.

Each geographical area can become an expert in the particular climate risks which apply to their region and roll out such expertise to other regions. Examples of this could be that the Dublin area develops expertise in energy and the built environment, the midlands in fluvial and pluvial issues and the Atlantic areas in storm and coastal flooding, erosion/accretion etc. The sharing and exploitation of regional commonalities in data and knowledge exchange will create synergies and lead to more informed, cost-effective decision making. Leveraging links to third-level institutions and other organizations for EU-funded projects and exploring business opportunities for enterprise and local development in the future e.g. supporting SMEs developing tailored ‘Climate Services’ for use at regional level and beyond.

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Year: 2018
Level of government: Local government

Status:

  • Implementation - making the innovation happen

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