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Climate Change

What is climate change? 

"Climate change" means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.

- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Article 1

What is climate change mitigation?

Climate change mitigation refers to efforts to reduce or prevent the emission of greenhouse gases. This can mean using new technologies that are more energy efficient, switching to renewable sources of energy to replace existing fossil fuel sources and changing farming practices to reduce emissions. It also requires the need for systemic change throughout society, with changes to human practice and behaviours as well as proactive actions to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This includes afforestation, which is when new trees are planted on land that doesn’t currently have trees. This helps to naturally remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

What is climate change adaptation?

Climate change adaptation refers to taking action to prepare for and adjust to both the current and future impacts of climate change. It considers how we reduce and manage the risk of present and future climate impacts and how we can do this in the most sustainable and effective way. For example, this includes how we support our coastal communities to respond to sea level rise and coastal erosion and how we prepare our infrastructure to deal with more frequent and severe climate events such as storms, flooding or prolonged periods of drought. 

What is the 'national climate objective'?

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act (as amended) outlines the national climate objective as:

The State shall, so as to reduce the extent of further global warming, pursue and achieve, by no later than the end of the year 2050, the transition to a climate resilient, biodiversity rich, environmentally sustainable and climate neutral economy.

What are Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions targets?

Ireland is one of 190 countries that signed up to the Paris Agreement that aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C and to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

Ireland has committed to a reduction in emissions of 51% by 2030 (compared to 2018 levels) and to being climate neutral no later than 2050. This means that the same amount of greenhouse gases that go into the atmosphere are matched by the removal of emissions from the atmosphere.

What is a carbon budget?

A carbon budget represents the total amount of emissions that may be released during an agreed five-year period. This is measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. It is calculated on an economy-wide basis and if we do not achieve one of our carbon budgets, any deficit must be made up in the next period. 
In Ireland, three carbon budgets have been set for 2021-2025, 2026-2030 and 2031-2035. This aims to set Ireland on a pathway to climate neutrality by 2050. 

What is a sectoral emissions ceiling?

Sectoral emissions ceilings refer to the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that each sector of the economy is allowed to produce during a specific time period. In Ireland the sectoral emissions ceilings set out the maximum emissions that are permitted from each sector to ensure that Ireland remains within its carbon budgets. These sectors are:

  • Electricity
  • Transport
  • Built Environment (Residential, Commercial & Public Sector)
  • Industry & Other
  • Agriculture
  • Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)

For more information about climate change terms please visit the Climate Jargon Buster