Ireland: Climate action ‘laggard’ or ‘failure’?

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


We live in a rapidly changing world in which interactions between social, economic, environmental and political forces produce complex societal challenges and far-reaching consequences, notably anthropogenic climate change. Focusing on Ireland, this paper identifies socio-economic and political ecological tensions manifest in Irish state responses to climate breakdown.

Ireland, like most countries, is heavily dependent on fossil fuels to provide energy central to society’s functioning, however, consumption of these resources is inseparable from the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which contribute to climate change (IPCC, 2012). Ireland’s ratification of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and associated agreements implies a commitment to climate action, yet the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) recently admitted the country is a ‘laggard’ in comparison to our European counterparts.

Outlining relevant policies and practices, the paper reveals conflicts and contradictions inherent to the state’s approach, for example the implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies alongside efforts to increase hydrocarbon extraction and agricultural activities which raise GHG emissions. By critiquing such multi-dimensional paradoxes, this paper questions if the term ‘failure’ might better reflect the reality of Ireland’s current responses to climate breakdown. Nonetheless, being cognisant of the evolving nature of climate action, the paper will also explore opportunities for change proposed by civil society groups and independent Teachtaí Dála (members of parliament) such as the Fossil Fuels Divestment Bill (2016) and Climate Emergency Measures Bill (2018).

Tracing an alternative pathway for climate action, the paper concludes that responding to climate breakdown necessitates a rapid transition to ‘low-carbon systems based on green technologies’ (Healy and Barry, 2017).
Period06 Mar 2019
Held atEdge Hill University, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • Climate action
  • Ireland
  • Climate breakdown
  • Irish energy policy
  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation