Loughs Agency sets out climate change targets

Sharon McMahon, CEO of Loughs Agency, outlines the measures proposed to be taken by the cross-border body on the journey to decarbonisation.

Climate change is the single largest threat to the natural environment this planet has ever faced, bringing about more intense and frequent storms, drought conditions, heatwaves, changes in sea levels, and warming oceans.

The statistics speak for themselves. 2010 to 2019 was the hottest decade on record, while in 2021, the World Meteorological Organisation indicated that global mean sea level reached a new record high, rising an average of 4.5mm per year over the period 2013 to 2021. Extreme weather events have now become the norm, with climate change posing risks to ecosystems, health and wellbeing, economies, food security, and cultural heritage.

The work of Loughs Agency has never been more relevant in protecting the aquatic environment in our catchment areas of Foyle and Carlingford. The impacts of climate change are already being felt on the ecosystems that we protect, conserve, and develop. We are acutely aware of the delicate ecological balance within these aquatic habitats, and how this balance relates to wider ecosystems and the communities who live within these areas.

If we are to achieve the ultimate goal of carbon net zero by 2050 as is set out in the Northern Ireland Energy Strategy, it is clear that every government, organisation, and individual has a responsibility to play their part. A variety of comprehensive and innovative actions need to be identified, prioritised, and implemented in the coming months and years to ensure we remain on track to hit these targets.

As one of the north-south implementation bodies, Loughs Agency’s overarching mission is to “sustainably manage, promote, and develop the fisheries and resources of the Foyle and Carlingford areas”. Much of what we do is conservation and environmental-focused, which heightens the important role our organisation plays in supporting climate policy ambitions on the island. We are, and have been for over 70 years, on the frontline when it comes to protecting the natural world, and it is essential that we display leadership in addressing the ongoing climate crisis.

Consequently, we are delighted to have developed a draft Climate Action Plan, which outlines how we at Loughs Agency aim to reduce our carbon emissions in the years ahead. The draft reflects the leadership role we wish to take while supporting a modal shift away from high-carbon energy and implementing climate-resilient and nature-based solutions for both the Foyle and Carlingford catchment areas.

The headline messaging we want to get across from the document is around our climate ambition which is defined as follows: “To reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 51 per cent by 2030 and to be a net zero carbon and climate-resilient Agency by 2050.”

These targets will help the organisation fall in line with the ambitions of strategic stakeholders and respective government departments.

The plan will also help ensure that Loughs Agency remains at the forefront of developing and leading in the field of climate adaptation and mitigation, further enhancing our mission in protecting the natural environment and the species within Foyle and Carlingford. Our staff are truly passionate about their work, and their dedication and commitment will be crucial in achieving the ambitious outcomes set out. You need only look at the remarkable projects worked on by various members of our team in recent years, such as SeaMonitor, STRAITS, CatchmentCARE, TREES and SWELL, all of which have the welfare of the magnificent species found within our catchment areas at their core, and the findings of these projects can help reliably inform management decisions.

Sloughan Glen Waterfall, Omagh.

Education is another facet of our organisation which is critically important, ensuring residents within the Foyle and Carlingford catchment areas are fully aware of the dangers posed by climate change. Our popular Foyle and Carlingford Ambassadors Programme has engaged with thousands of school pupils in the last year, all of whom leave the experience better informed on the importance of protecting and conserving biodiversity in our waterways. It is our hope that many more young people can make the most of this and similar initiatives in years to come.

Shroove Lighthouse, County Donegal overlooking Lough Foyle.

Many changes to how we work have already been made. We have been increasing our use of renewable energy, strengthening the energy efficiency of our buildings, reducing our fleet, procuring electric vehicles and enhancing energy monitoring. As well as the aforementioned changes, we have also adopted the use of smart technologies by introducing sustainable drainage and rainwater harvesting systems. The draft Climate Action Plan focuses on further enhancements to these while setting out five key areas for improvement:

  • buildings and property;
  • travel and fleet;
  • catchment adaption and biodiversity;
  • supply chains; and
  • people, stakeholders, and communities.

We are also keen for the public to have their say on our plans, which is why we recently launched a public consultation which provides that opportunity. Information sessions were held in both Foyle and Carlingford on the opening two days of the process, and feedback can be accepted until the closing date of 31 January 2024.

For those who were unable to make the sessions but would like to discuss the plan with our team, we would encourage you to get in touch.

Loughs Agency, as an environmental organisation, has an exciting opportunity to show leadership in the area of climate change and be an exemplar of best practice in response to the emergency facing our beloved planet.

T: +44 (0) 28 71 342100
E: info@loughs-agency.org
W: www.loughs-agency.org

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