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We summarise the most significant measures that are listed in Ireland’s recently published Climate Action Plan for implementation by the public sector.

1. From public sector energy efficiency to a decarbonisation strategy

  • Pathfinder Programmes are helping to identify scalable models for public sector buildings and school retrofits that can be expanded under Project Ireland 2040

  • The ‘Energy in Education Programme’ supports schools in undertaking audits and implementing energy projects. Participating schools reduced their energy bills by 5-10% through energy management, and by up to 40% through energy efficiency retrofits

  • Under Project Ireland 2040 Ireland has committed to an energy performance improvement programme to upgrade all public buildings to BER ‘B’ level

The policy support to this process has the potential for significant improvement:

  • The energy status of all public buildings will be published

  • Audit tools will be developed to help bodies identify opportunities

  • Technical support will be developed to help bodies implement strategies for reduction

  • Opportunities for aggregations participating in clusters will be developed

The framework goals for the new Public Sector Decarbonisation Strategy shall be to deliver 30% emissions reduction by 2030 and to develop a roadmap to carbon neutrality by 2050. Other national initiatives will include:

  • A new Public Sector Decarbonisation Strategy will be put in place, including strengthening the technical supports and incentive arrangements available to public sector managers to deliver within their organisations. It will include guidance on measuring carbon footprint, exemplars of success and methods of collaboration and aggregation of action

  • Develop a detailed roadmap for deep retrofitting our school buildings to a minimum standard of BER B2, including facilitating renewable energy installation and export of electricity to the grid in line with provisions of the new micro-generation framework to be developed under this Plan

2. Climate Action Mandate for public bodies

Public bodies will be required to demonstrate how they are showing leadership and driving change. A new Climate Action Mandate will introduce a ‘core’ group of requirements that every public body has to meet, and a wider set that should be pursued by larger organisations. The core requirements will have specific timelines for their introduction (with all core requirements to be in place not later than the end of 2020), and be clearly measureable against a set of key performance indicators, and may include the following:

  • A collective target to reduce CO2eq. by 30% and improve energy efficiency by 50% by 2030 with a view to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050

  • Reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability activities in annual reports

  • Establishing a green team to engage staff in being part of the solution

  • Delivering a green procurement approach which incorporates carbon pricing and climate criteria in public tenders

  • Every public building with public access to display an up-to-date Display Energy Certificate

  • Collaborating with suppliers and service providers in joint decarbonisation initiatives

  • Including working with clients to adopt low carbon approaches such as the development of clusters

  • Digitisation of paper-based processes made the default approach

  • Carbon-proofing of major decisions and programmes on a systematic basis, moving over time to a near-zero carbon investment strategy

Large public bodies may be required to commit to:

  • Achieving formal environmental accreditation, such as EMAS or ISO 14001, and ISO 50001

  • A proportion of energy to come from certified renewable sources and/or onsite renewables

  • Adopting a near-zero carbon investment strategy where feasible

  • Active management of equipment containing refrigerant gases, including maintenance and disposal planning

The development of an appropriate framework to address the role of each semi-state body in advancing climate action objectives, including encouraging the board of each company to take advantage of opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, within the scope of their commercial mandate. In this regard, we will examine the potential role of the Shareholder Letter of Expectation as the appropriate way to frame the necessary mandate

3. Redesigned model for green public procurement

The following steps will be taken to accelerate green procurement practice:

  • The phased introduction of green criteria across Government and Public Sectors targeting priority products and services

  • Building green criteria into OGP frameworks as they arise for renewal

  • Providing support to procurers in using GPP guidance

  • Engaging with suppliers, especially SMEs regarding GPP opportunities

  • Working collaboratively to ensure an All of Government approach to the successful incorporation of green criteria and other social considerations into public procurement policy and practice

  • Developing clusters and networks for GPP

  • Using existing GPP frameworks in place in other Member States

  • The OGP reporting annually on implementation of GPP

4. Public fleets

  • A new public procurement framework contract for electric vehicles will be introduced in 2020 which will allow public bodies to purchase EVs with reduced administrative burden

  • The deployment of electric vehicles in the small public service vehicle (SPSV) sector will be stimulated, taking account of other requirements for this sector, including wheelchair accessibility

5. Local government leadership

  • Local Authorities will be supported to build their capacity to further develop their role in their local communities in acting to demonstrate public sector leadership on climate action through upskilling, knowledge dissemination, characterisation of scalable interventions and funding support

  • Resources from the Project Ireland 2040 Funds will be mobilised to support local authority ambition on climate action, including measures to encourage refurbishment and regeneration and the local development of low-carbon, climate-resilient economic activities

  • New ‘Climate Action Community Engagement’ offices will allow Local Authorities to become key partners and enablers of an expanded network of Sustainable Energy Communities across Ireland, complementing the actions for Local Authorities on citizen engagement and community leadership

6. Climate Action Charter for Local Authorities

A Climate Action Charter for Local Authorities will be developed and support offered in developing their activities under the Charter, including running competitive calls to support innovative projects, and benchmarking progress with badging against a set of key performance indicators.

The charter will require local authorities to act as advocates in Climate Action, to measure the carbon impact of their activities accurately and report annually on their carbon footprint. It will require a 50% improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 and active participation in partnerships with enterprise and community groups who have as their goal, improvement in the use of resources and reduced climate impact. They will also be required to exercise their planning and regulatory roles to help improve climate outcomes in the wider community and beyond the public sector, by influencing or requiring certain efficiency standards to be met.


There will be a number of initiatives to demonstrate the leadership role of the public sector in taking climate action. There will be more ambitious targets for energy efficiency and emissions reduction, and there will be more transparency on public body emissions and more comprehensive sustainability reporting.

Incorporating green criteria into public purchasing will provide an opportunity to convert environmental policy objectives on carbon reduction, air and water quality, and waste reduction into delivered actions.

To discuss these aspects of the Climate Action Plan in more detail, contact a member of our Energy & Utilities team.

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.

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