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Ireland climate resilience policy indicator

Part of Climate Resilience Policy Indicator
  • Ireland’s average temperature has risen 0.9°C since 1900 throughout all seasons. Although this upward trend stabilised during the past two decades, warming is still projected to continue across all seasons up to 1.3-1.6°C by mid-century. Warmer temperatures will reduce the country’s energy demand for heating.
  • Annual mean precipitation in Ireland was 6% higher in the 1989-2018 period than in 1961-1990. The decade 2006-2015 was the wettest on record. Precipitation patterns are projected to become more variable, which could lead to a greater number of both heavy precipitation events and dry periods.
  • An energy Sector Adaptation Plan (SAP), focused specifically on electricity and gas networks, was developed under Ireland’s National Adaptation Framework (NAF). The SAP identifies objectives and corresponding actions for energy sector climate resilience and adaptation by 2050. The Climate Change Advisory Council, which provides advice and monitors progress through annual and periodic reviews, is consulted in the development of the NAF as well as sectoral adaptation plans. Ireland’s national energy policies such as the National Energy and Climate Plan, the Climate Action Plan, the National Development Plan 2018-2027, and the White Paper: Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015-2030 also address energy sector climate resilience.

Level of floods, drought and tropical cyclones in Ireland, 2000-2020


Level of warming in Ireland, 2000-2020



Ireland’s average temperature has increased 0.9°C since 1900, in line with the global average. The warming trend is visible across all seasons, with minimum summer and winter temperatures being higher today than during the 1961-1990 period. Between 1961 and 2010, the number of warm days (with temperature over 20°C) increased slightly with very little change in cold spell duration (with temperature under 0°C).

While temperatures appeared to stabilise in the past two decades, projections suggest that the upward trend is likely to resume across all seasons, with the average temperature increasing by as much as 1.3‑1.6°C by mid-century.1 Warming is expected to be stronger in eastern Ireland than in the west, with the maximum daily temperature 1.4‑2.2°C higher in 2041-2060 than it was in 1981-2000. The number of heatwave events during 2041-2060 is projected to increase, particularly in south-eastern Ireland. By mid-century, there could be 45‑58% fewer frost days (minimum daily temperature lower than 0°C), and ice days (maximum daily temperature below 0°C) could decrease 68‑78%.2

Although the number of heating degree days (HDDs) and cooling degree days (CDDs) barely changed in the past two decades, climate projections anticipate a 12-21% decrease in HDDs by mid-century.3 The largest drop is expected in southern Ireland, and this change in HDDs is likely to lead to lower energy demand for heating. Even though the number of CDDs is likely to increase, and could therefore boost energy demand for cooling, the magnitude of the change will likely be negligible compared with the decrease in heating energy demand.

Temperature in Ireland, 2000-2020


Cooling degree days in Ireland, 2000-2020


Heating degree days in Ireland, 2000-2020



Average annual rainfall was 6% higher in the 1989-2018 period compared with 1961-1990 across all seasons, although there were changes in precipitation patterns and seasonal distribution. The western half of the country experienced the greatest increase in precipitation. However, summers have become drier in recent decades.

Climate projections indicate no significant changes in annual precipitation, although it is likely to decrease significantly in the summer – by 2-17% by mid-century in a high greenhouse gas concentration scenario.4 In addition, precipitation patterns are likely to become more variable, extending dry periods and causing more frequent heavy precipitation events. In fact, the number of very wet days (more than 30 mm of precipitation) is projected to increase, especially in autumn and winter, by 42-62%. Finally, dry periods (five consecutive days with precipitation of less than 1 mm) are expected to become more common, increasing by up to 48% in the summer5 by mid-century.

Tropical cyclones and storms

The wind speed in Ireland is expected to decrease for all seasons, especially summer. Storms are also projected to become less frequent, although the intensity of extreme wind storms may increase.6 Storms have affected the electricity supply in recent years, interrupting transmission and distribution while boosting wind power generation. When storm Ellen hit Ireland’s west coast in August 2020, it damaged transmission and distribution lines and left 194 000 people (around 4% of the country’s 4.8 million inhabitants) without access to electricity for several hours. The storm also led to coastal flooding, further damaging infrastructure, especially along the south coast. At the same time, however, its strong winds delivered the highest-ever share of power from wind farms to the grid.

In 2018, Ireland prepared its first statutory National Adaptation Framework (NAF) under the 2015 Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act, replacing the non-statutory National Climate Change Adaptation Framework of 2012. The statutory NAF identifies 12 key sectors, and the sectoral adaptation plans produced for each one together propose more than 180 actions. These sectoral adaptation plans were developed using the climate information platform Climate Ireland and based on the Sectoral Planning Guidelines for Climate Change Adaptation. In 2019 Local Adaptation Strategies were prepared by all local authorities based on Local Authority Adaptation Strategy Development Guidelines.

One of these sectoral plans focuses on electricity and gas networks (2018), with its table of specific enumerated measures detailing timelines and stakeholders for the electricity and gas networks until 2050. Activities include building on adaptation measures already in place in the short to medium term, as well as defining broader objectives and potential actions – for instance by mainstreaming climate change adaptation into general energy policy by assessing the current level of policy attention and making appropriate recommendations.

The Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) was consulted on the NAF and the sectoral adaptation plans, and it provides advice to sectors and monitors progress through annual and periodic reviews. The CCAC’s periodic reports (first published in July 2017, with the most recent one released in 2021) all contain specific recommendations for further NAF development. Plus, the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) launched a review of the NAF in December 2021; it will be completed in 2022 following public consultation.

The CCAC also established an Adaptation Committee in 2016 to focus specifically on adaptation-related matters. In addition, Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs) have been established in four regions, with a lead local authority for each CARO, to assist local authorities develop their own adaptation strategies under the NAF.

Climate change impact and vulnerability assessments also support the NAF and sectoral adaptation plans. The country’s Current and Future Vulnerabilities to Climate Change in Ireland project (2013) classifies climate impacts on energy demand, transmission, distribution and supply as vulnerable areas under the category of critical infrastructure and the built environment. Meanwhile, the Summary of the State of Knowledge on Climate Change Impacts for Ireland (2017) provides updated information on climate impacts and offers associated adaptation measures (e.g. enhance the design criteria of power stations; update disaster preparedness; and review current and future energy demand).

Ireland’s national energy policies also discuss energy sector climate resilience, although they do not provide additional insights on possible actions to enhance energy sector climate resilience. Meanwhile, its National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) recognises the urgency of addressing current and future risks posed by a changing climate, and refers to the NAF and sectoral adaptation plans. In fact, Ireland has already integrated revision of its National Energy and Climate Plan into the Climate Action Plan 2021 process.

While the Climate Action Plan 2021 provides a detailed plan for decisive action to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030, its chapter on climate adaptation lists the country’s policy measures to date, with reference to the NAF, the CAROs and the climate impact information system. Furthermore, its supporting Annex of Actions details timelines and responsible organisations for 40 adaptation actions needed to meet national climate targets. It will be updated annually, including in 2022, to ensure alignment with Ireland’s legally binding economy-wide carbon budgets and sectoral ceilings.

Two additional policy documents linked through reference to the NAF are the National Development Plan 2018-2027 and the white paper entitled Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015-2030.

Finally, the Irish Environmental Protection Agency’s 2021 report Selecting and Using Indicators of Climate Resilience states that, to reduce the social, economic and environmental impacts of present and future climate change, adaptation action is urgently needed now to ensure resilience to both extreme and slow-onset events. It identifies 127 indicators to enhance adaptation monitoring and reporting, offering a description of each indicator, its sectoral relevance, potential data sources, data availability and priority. The sectors considered are the 12 key ones addressed in the NAF, with the energy sector being covered under critical infrastructure.

  1. In 2041-2060 compared with 1981-2000, according to IPCCC climate scenario RCP 8.5.

  2. According to IPCCC climate scenarios RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5.

  3. According to IPCCC climate scenarios RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5.

  4. According to IPCCC climate scenario RCP 8.5.

  5. In a high-GHG-concentration scenario (IPCCC climate scenario RCP 8.5).

  6. “Storms” refer to any disturbed state of the atmosphere, strongly implying destructive and unpleasant weather, and can range in scale. “Tropical cyclone” is the general term for a strong, cyclonic-scale disturbance that originates over tropical oceans. Although this report uses these terms generally, they can be divided into detailed categories: a tropical storm is a tropical cyclone with one-minute average surface winds of 18‑32 m/s. Beyond 32 m/s, a tropical cyclone is called a hurricane, typhoon or cyclone depending on its geographic location. Hurricanes refer to the high-intensity cyclones that form in the South Atlantic, central North Pacific and eastern North Pacific; typhoons occur in the northwest Pacific; and the more general term cyclone applies to the South Pacific and Indian oceans.