Posted on November 7, 2023
Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan has said the country needs to recognise the reality that coastal erosion will impact thousands of homes across Ireland.
“We have to manage and protect our coasts and our people and we can do that,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.
Mr Ryan was responding to the new National Coastal Change Management strategy, which warns that thousands of homeowners and businesses could have to abandon their properties under national policies to deal with rising sea levels and major coastal change.
Policies around “managed retreat”, which is a coordinated move away from the coast, must be developed now instead of waiting for an emergency situation to arise, according to the strategy.
“We want to keep as many of our people in their homes as possible, and if we manage this, I believe we can avoid that,” Mr Ryan said.
“Reducing that number is our first goal. We do know this report that has been published gives us a clear indication as to what we need to do and the scale of the risk it is. It is compounded by what’s happening with climate change.”
Change was not going to happen overnight, he said, and preparations would have to be made for what is going to happen. “Because as I said, as well as rising sea levels and the coastal erosion impacts, we’re also seeing greater flood levels and particularly very strong storms, storm surges. We do have to prepare for that and try to prevent it as best we can.”
When asked if the Government was moving away from mitigation and flood-relief schemes and putting the onus on families to move to higher ground, Mr Ryan said it was not just flood protection measures that were needed. It was looking at the “whole of the river basin, from mountain right down to the sea.” This would require a much wider adaptation strategy to adapt to climate change.
There were some parts of the coast around the country where there would be great pressures because they were low-lying, he added.
“There are specific measures we can take in locations like that. It’s part of a wider sort of plan published today. But it is a long-term issue. It’s not immediate.”
For people considering purchasing a home in an at-risk area, he said they would have to exercise their own judgement about how close the coast was.
It was important to introduce defensive measures as quickly as possible, he said. While people had a right to object to such plans, the Government would be introducing a new Planning and Development Bill which he said will lead to “better and more certain planning.”
This would allow people to make objections and appeals, but not in a way that would slow down the process and make it expensive, he said.