Every local authority has been asked by the government to select a pilot decarbonisation zone in order to test the scale and scope of decarbonising our economy and society. Ireland aims to reduce carbon emissions 51% by 2030 and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The pilot decarbonisation zone will test the scale of this challenge and allow us to map and engage the stakeholders needed to achieve this goal. Learnings from the pilot decarbonisation zone will be quickly replicated countywide. An annual reduction in carbon emissions of 7% is the target.
Arklow has been selected as County Wicklow’s decarbonisation zone. Much of the building stock in Arklow, both residential and commercial, as elsewhere in the county will need upgrading in the coming years. Wicklow as a commuter county will need to look at how we can facilitate shifts to car free travel modes and also explore opportunities to reduce commuting. Industry and business will be a key partner for creating a low carbon economy which will be resilient for the future.
The first challenge for decarbonisation in Arklow will be establishing a baseline of emissions, developing a spatial plan and drawing up an implementation plan outlining projects and opportunities. This work will be completed by the end of 2021. The implementation plan will look at opportunities to upgrade the building stock with energy efficiency measures and use of renewables, opportunities for active travel and public transport, remote working and new job opportunities in decarbonisation. It will explore new areas of innovation such as district heating, storage of energy or developing the circular economy. Opportunities for nature based solutions that will assist with climate adaptation as well as mitigation will be explored. It is important that the transition to a carbon neutral economy achieves a just transition for all citizens. The implementation plan will help to develop innovative projects and scope funding opportunities for developing them.
County Wicklow has a network of Sustainable Energy Community Groups working with SEAI and partnering with Wicklow County Council. This network is working on decarbonisation in their communities and will be of key importance in extending decarbonisation countywide.
Decarbonisation is a challenge for County Wicklow with a short timescale to achieve a transformational transition to a low carbon future. While the challenge is big and may require difficult choices, Wicklow is a county with resources that can help us succeed and created a strong future for all in the county.