Wednesday, January 25, 2023


By Suzanne Pender

A NEW town bike scheme, retrofitting, energy-efficient public lighting, electric charging points, biodiversity plans and much more will all form part of a Climate Action Plan currently being devised by the local authority.

Climate action co-ordinator Janette O’Brien addressed the January meeting of Carlow County Council last week to discuss the formulation of the county’s plan and its progress to date. The plan is part of national strategy, which requires the country’s local authorities to devise a Climate Action Plan that will translate national climate strategy policy to local level, while bringing together critical stakeholders for its implementation.

Ms O’Brien stated that the plan must be adopted within the next 12 months and fulfil Ireland’s EU environmental obligations for 2050 and our 2030 climate targets. Ms O’Brien said the aim was to create a Climate Action Plan that was “understandable, achievable but still ambitious”, adding that it will be adopted in February 2024 with a five-year period to implement.

Two new positions will be created – a community climate action officer and climate action officer – while a cross-functional climate action team has been created representing every council department.

Ms O’Brien stated that €350,000 is expected for Carlow town and county under the community climate action fund, but is yet to be confirmed.

“We want people to come to us and be part of it,” assured Ms O’Brien, adding that the elected members, local authority staff, neighbouring local authorities, Carlow PPN, LECP, local businesses, statutory organisations, voluntary groups and the wider community will all be involved. A public consultation process is currently underway, with observations and submissions invited from now until Monday 6 February through Carlow County Council’s consultation portal.

Ms O’Brien outlined many of the climate action initiatives undertaken by the local authority to date, including energy use at Powerstown Civic Amenity Centre halved from 2018 to 2021, 26 free recycling facilities throughout the county, 968 local authority homes installed with attic and wall insulation at a cost of €1.6m, air-to-water energy upgrades, and an aim to have all local authority homes achieving a building energy rating B1 by 2030.

Solar panels are currently in place at a number of public buildings, including the Assembly Rooms, County Hall and Tullow Civic Centre, while Carlow Fire Station has engaged in a pilot programme using water from a rainwater harvesting system to wash its engines, saving about 25,000 litres of water annually.

Ms O’Brien’s presentation generated a number of questions from members, with cllr Fergal Browne asking about the prospect of a grant to upgrade windows and doors or a bicycle scheme for the town, given that “we have the cycle lanes and we have the university”. Cllr Browne also asked about assistance for people around the area of solar panels, describing the situation as “a minefield” at the moment.

Cllr John Murphy agreed, stating that the process of grants for solar panels had to be simplified. He also called for a greater number of electric car charging points, particularly in the south of the county.

Cllr Murphy cited the case of his nephew home for Christmas, who had to drive to Kilkenny to get his car charged as the electric point in Borris was broken.

Cllr Willie Quinn raised the issue of the no-burn policy for farmers, which has been in place since 31 December. Cllr Quinn stated that no back-up plan had been put forward and asked what farmers with “four or five trailers” of hedge clippings are supposed to do.

Cllr Tommy Kinsella was also concerned about a “lot of red tape put in the way” in relation to environmental grants, a point echoed by cllr Charlie Murphy when it came to retrofitting.

Cllr Andrea Dalton called for a town bike scheme. She also pointed out that currently there is no obligation on landlords in the private rental market to retrofit their dwellings.

Ms O’Brien confirmed that the council is looking at introducing a town bike scheme and accepted that more needed to be done to simplify the process around retrofitting.

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