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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
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emissions reduction

Varadkar says 'adaptation' to climate change most effective response and land use plan needed

The Taoiseach said reducing emission would make a “small contribution” to slowing down climate change.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said that adapting to the reality of climate change is the most important thing the government can do to protect people, property and infrastructure, while reducing emissions will “make a small contribution” in slowing it down. 

Varadkar was responding to a question from Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns about the Government’s plans to address land use and implement flood protection schemes in the wake of the floods that hit Midleton in Co Cork last week. 

“I agree that we’re all going to have to have a much greater focus on adaption as part of climate action. Climate change is reality,” Varadkar said. 

“Even if the world reaches net zero by 2050, and it might not, there’s a lot more climate change to come, it’s baked in, it’s going to get worse, there’s going to be more of it.

“And while us reducing our emissions will make a small contribution to slowing down climate change, the most effective thing we can do to protect our people and our property and our infrastructure is adaptation and we’re going to need a much greater focus I think on that in the time ahead.”

The Taoiseach, who visited Midleton in the aftermath of the flooding, said it was the worst he has ever seen. 

“I had a chance to visit Midleton last week, a town that I know very well. And I’ve seen a lot of flood damage in my time, but this was at a different scale. Flood waters that were up to my arm and not just water, dirt, mud sewage a huge amount of damage done,” he said. 

The scale of the flooding seen in Cork, Waterford and other parts of the country since Storm Babet has been blamed by TDs on the way land is used and a lack of prevention schemes. Cairns pointed in particular to floodplains being built on and wetlands being drained as two major factors. 

She also said that Midleton had been waiting “a decade” for a flood protection scheme which is yet to enter the planning stage, to which Varadkar replied that these schemes are often objected to in court and An Bord Pleanála. 

“Minister (Patrick) O’Donovan had a very good meeting with Cork County Council yesterday, I’m due to receive the report on that today.

“It’s still intended to get the flood relief scheme into planning next year, but these are complex schemes that take a lot of time and are often challenged and opposed at An Bord Peanála and in court. We’ve 50 don’t and they worked, 90 in the pipeline.”

In response to the question of whether the Government was in favour of a national land use plan, Varadkar said it was being worked on and led by Minister of State Pippa Hackett. 

“On the issue of land use plan. Yes we need a land use plan for Ireland. We are working on that at the moment. Very much being led by Minister Hackett but obviously, agriculture involved in that too and other Government departments.” 

A land use plan would regulate the kinds of buildings and infrastructure that can be built in certain areas. Land use planning usually vests this decision making in a central authority. 

Storm Babet 

Storm Babet brought heavy rainfall across the country last week, particularly in the south and south west, and people are still dealing with the damage it caused.

Midleton in Co Cork was one of the worst hit areas, with flood waters filling the town’s streets and causing damage to homes and businesses. Members of the Defence Forces were deployed to assist locals dealing with the deluge and roads were cut off. 

Local TD James O’Conno said it was “devastating” to see the extent of the damage and questioned why a Status Red weather warning was not issued.


Storms that can cause severe weather events like last week’s flooding are expected to become more frequent and more intense as climate change disrupts weather patterns. 

Governments are now having to deal with the very real problems that climate change poses and adaptation has become a common theme after decades of inadequate action on emission reduction. 

Last year the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report which stated that the impacts of climate change are already causing severe and widespread disruption around the world and drastic action is needed to avoid mounting loss of life, biodiversity and infrastructure. 

In 2018, the government published Ireland’s first National (Climate) Adaptation Framework (NAP), which aims to “reduce the vulnerability of the country to the negative effects of climate change” in order to develop a “climate resilient Ireland”. 

A Public Consultation has since been held and the Government is currently reviewing the NAP. 

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