With the formation of the new government on Friday we now have a Department for “Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources“. Denis Naughten, independent TD for Roscommon-Galway, has been appointed as Minister.
On the one hand, having a government department with climate change in the title seems like progress. On the other hand, taking responsibility for climate change away from what used to be the department of the Environment — now “Housing, Planning and Local Government” — could be problematic. This new division of responsibility seems to me to reinforce the impression that the Government, and civil servants, view climate change (to the extent that they think about it at all) purely from a mitigation perspective — i.e. the challenge of reducing emissions and the potential costs associated with this, including costs of non-compliance with our existing commitments (see Steve’s recent post on risks highlighted in the Dept of Finance’s spring statement).
But there are also fiscal and economic risks for Ireland from the impacts of climate change. Our exposure to those risks will be determined in large part by policies related to planning and housing.
New Minister for housing, Simon Coveney was on the radio this morning [.mp3] talking about housing policy, and doing a fine job of saying all the right things, without really saying very much at all. It will be interesting to see how his plans to create the incentives for “as many houses as possible, to be built as quickly as possible” [paraphrasing] can be reconciled with the need to do this in a way that (a) helps to tackle emissions e.g. by encouraging more sustainable commuting patterns and moderating domestic energy demands, and (b) also limits future exposure to climate risks such as flooding.
I’m hoping Simon and Denis are on good terms.