Climate action offers huge economic opportunities for business and enterprise, a conference organised by the local government sector has heard.
The ‘Economic Opportunities from Climate Action’ conference held on October 12 and 13 is part of a research and policy initiative driven by local authorities in collaboration with Maynooth University, which has analysed EU and national policy and identified 10 key areas with significant opportunities for growth and innovation linked to climate action.
EU and national policy aims to accelerate the transition to a circular economy, presenting opportunities for Ireland to develop our domestic recycling industry. Textiles, paper, plastic and aluminium have been identified as potential markets for development.
Research and innovation
In order to facilitate our move to a carbon-neutral circular economy, significant developments will be required in the areas of research, technology and innovation, with EU, national and regional funding streams available to business.
One of the key opportunities identified, in particular for local enterprise, is in the area of renovation, retrofitting and energy efficient construction of both public and private buildings. This is particularly relevant in the context of local authority plans to retrofit 36,000 social homes.
National policy supports the development of improved transportation infrastructure and encouraging modal shift, providing opportunities in construction, the development of greenway and blueway routes, as well as in new innovation areas such as car-sharing enterprises, bicycle repair and other local businesses.
National policy also supports the shift to electric vehicles and electric public transport, which points to opportunities within an emerging electric vehicle industry, as well as in relation to the installation and maintenance of charging points.
Over the next 10 years, it is planned to increase the share of renewable electricity generation to 80%. With renewable technologies reaching maturity and increasing demand for clean energy, opportunities exist in areas including micro generation, anaerobic digestion, biomass and biomethane.
The transition towards more a sustainable agriculture sector provides opportunities in areas such as afforestation, precision agriculture, nutrient management, research and knowledge transfer.
Covid-19 has accelerated the move to remote working, which can benefit local industry including through the development of remote working hubs, local enterprise opportunities and the revitalisation of town centres.
Reskilling and training
As new jobs and industries are created, there will be a significant need for providers of reskilling and training to meet employment needs.
Contracts with public service bodies, in particular local authorities, will be subject to green procurement criteria, providing opportunities for those firms who meet these criteria.
Addressing the conference, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, TD said,
“Climate change is a threat to all of us and transitioning to a low-carbon economy is a major priority for the Government. With our new Climate Law, Ireland is now one of the most ambitious countries in the world on climate. Our targets will require a huge shift in the energy we use, how we manage our waste, our housing stock and transport systems. There are significant opportunities for both existing and new businesses as we transition and decarbonise our economy. The Government, through Enterprise Ireland offers a €10m Climate Enterprise Action Fund to help Irish companies adapt and build their capabilities. I would urge firms of all sizes to analyse and consider the business and investment opportunities that climate action can bring.”
Speaking in advance of the conference, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, TD said,
“As we implement policies that reduce Ireland’s emissions, we will also ensure a just transition. Green innovation and enterprise is an exciting area, with huge potential for individual businesses. It can also build social resilience, by creating employment opportunities and stimulating local economies. The 10 themes highlighted by this conference show the breadth of the challenge, and the opportunity, of meeting our climate goals.”
Anna Marie Delaney, Offaly County Council Chief Executive and Chair of the CCMA Climate Action Economic Opportunities Project Steering Group said:
“One of the key goals in the Local Government Climate Action Strategy is to mobilise climate action in enterprise and support the transition to a net-zero and circular economy. Through this project, we have established the key areas with growth potential and identified ways in which local authorities can exert strong leadership to support businesses to capitalise on opportunities in these and other areas. This includes creating market and demand, leading by example and creating opportunities within local authority operations, supporting sustainable development and transport, promoting renewable energy and the circular economy, and providing direct support to green enterprises through the Local Enterprise Offices”