Climate politics in Ireland

Guest post by Conor Little (University of Copenhagen) and Diarmuid Torney (Dublin City University).

Ireland’s climate policy process has again reached a crucial stage. The publication of a draft National Mitigation Plan is one of the final steps towards formulating Ireland’s climate policy for the next five years.

IPS ImageIreland’s climate policy is multi-sectoral, ranging across areas including the key emissions sectors of agriculture, transport, energy, and buildings, and with implications for other policy domains. Both the substance and the timing of the draft plan has been the subject of significant criticism, not least from the Climate Change Advisory Council, which has suggested that the short time between the publication of the draft Plan and its finalisation leaves little scope for the kind of research-based advice that it is mandated to provide. This comes against a backdrop of significant and comparatively large shortcomings in climate policy outputs and outcomes.

Some of the challenges related to climate policy are technical, but for many, it is the politics of climate change on which so much now hinges. Through its emphasis on “nationally determined” climate actions, the Paris Agreement has focused attention to domestic climate politics. However, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others have highlighted, our understanding of climate policy processes is limited. Domestic politics strongly shapes the response to climate change in Ireland. Many actors feed into climate policy processes across various policy domains. Beyond government and state agencies, these include political parties, members of the public, non-governmental organisations and interest groups, supra- and sub-national actors, and foreign governments.

This diversity is reflected in a symposium published in the most recent issue of Irish Political Studies on the politics of climate change in Ireland. The contributions, by Emmet Fox (Anglia Ruskin University) and Henrike Rau (LMU Munich), and by the authors of this post (Diarmuid Torney at Dublin City University and Conor Little at the University of Copenhagen) explore public attitudes to climate change, the diffusion of climate policy across borders, and the party politics of climate change, while the introduction to the symposium provides an overview of Ireland as a case in the study of climate politics. Two of the articles in the symposium are currently available on free access for the month of May at and

The publication of this symposium coincides with the establishment of a new Specialist Group on Environmental Politics of the Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI). This Specialist Group aims to provide a forum for the growing community of scholars working across a variety of perspectives and approaches (comparative politics, EU studies, International Relations, normative political theory), as well as those focusing on climate change and other environmental issues (e.g., pollution, ocean and marine politics, energy policy) at multiple scales of governance (local, national, European, international) in Ireland and beyond. With the group’s co-convenor, Dr. Viviane Gravey of Queen’s University Belfast, we hope that it will lead in time to the further development of this research community and its links with other disciplines and with policymakers.

Membership is open to members of the PSAI, but we welcome contact (at cli[at] or v.gravey[at] from any individuals or organisations who are interested in being kept up-to-date with the work of the group or participating in its workshops, conference panels, and other activities. The group will hold its first workshop on 23 June 2017 in Belfast and we will publish more details shortly on this blog.

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