Climate change has been described as one of the “greatest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century” (Hawkins, 2009). Simply maintaining current lifestyles will require large scale climate change adaptation; actions to avoid continued climate change will require even more ambitious mitigative effort. Climate change, while global in its reach and extent, will be local and varied in its impact. For Ireland, higher average temperatures and increased precipitation are predicted; however, the precise implications in terms of economic and social impact remain highly uncertain. Exact mitigation and adaptation plans have yet to be agreed to and since the extent of one will influence the extent of the other, the precise portfolio of technologies remains to be decided upon. In part this is because many of the technologies have yet to be developed: inherent in the climate change adaptation and mitigation effort required is an opportunity to develop and procure new and innovative climate technologies.
In terms of the climate change mitigation and adaptation challenge for Ireland, the EPA Climate Technology fellowship is focused on identifying potential technologies at the idea, development or commercialisation stages and technology potential at points where Ireland’s unique climate change challenges and particular research strengths are aligned. In a broad sense, the aim of the project is to bridge the gap between the demand and solutions space in addressing climate change challenges.
This project will first undertake a multi-criteria assessment, framed by current evaluations of Ireland’s climate change and mitigation challenge (the demand) and focus on the potential for innovative technologies (the solution) to meet that demand. Ireland is recognised as a leader in various disciplines of research, including biotechnology, ICT and certain renewable energies and Ireland has demonstrated successful innovation at managing large amounts of wind power on the electricity system and in developing an energy management standard that has become an international standard. The multi-criteria assessment of Ireland’s existing climate technology research will be broad enough to incorporate Ireland’s acknowledged strengths and will also involve significant engagement with many stakeholders in industry, academic and government. This will include a technology needs assessment of Ireland, which will be informed by much existing work originally undertaken as part of the EPA STRIVE programme.
In terms of fostering climate technology potential, this project will also focus on identifying gaps, barriers to success, and opportunities for commercialization for key climate technologies. Key partners at this project stage will be Industrial Development Authority (IDA) and Enterprise Ireland (EI). Best-practice international advice will also be sought.