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Arklow selected as Wicklow’s first decarbonisation zone

Arklow Town has been selected as County Wicklow’s pilot decarbonisation zone.  Wicklow County Council will now work with all sectors of the community in Arklow to test and measure the process of decarbonising our economy and society.

The aim is to create a baseline on how we roll out decarbonisation across the county, ensuring a just transition for all. Arklow will now play a pivotal role in helping Wicklow County Council develop its response to Climate Change.

The town of Arklow offers great scope in assessing the scale and range of challenge involved in decarbonizing society and our economy while also undertaking measures to protect the environment and make it more resilient for the future.  The decarbonisation process will allow the town to focus on  positive regeneration of the town, future fitting it for the coming decades. 

Cllr Pat Kennedy said that as Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council and a member of Arklow Municpal District, he was delighted that Arklow has been chosen as Wicklow first decarbonisation zone.

We now have  clarity on the path ahead towards tackling the climate change issue and it sets out unambiguously the choices for our community over the next decade. We are grateful to have the active support of the Arklow Town Team, Arklow Tidy Towns and a very active community network. Wicklow County Council will continue its engagement with the public on how to meet the government’s target of 50% reduction in CO2 for Arklow and the rest of County Wicklow,” he stated.

Chief Executive, Mr Frank Curran,  said that in selecting a zone Wicklow County Council wanted to pick a location that provided a wide base for innovation and demonstration projects, a town that would facilitate ambition in exploring the opportunities and challenges of decarbonisation.

He said each local authority in the country must select a decarbonisation zone, which can be either urban or rural but must cover either a population of 5,000 or a land area of five square kilometres. In the chosen zone Wicklow County Council will be required to identify projects for decarbonisation, work with the community on an implementation plan to be finalised by the end of 2021, establish baseline carbon emission and measure progress on decarbonisation.

The town, Mr Curran added,  will have a target of reducing emissions by 7% per annum, achieving a 51% reduction by the end of the decade.  Learning from this project will be applied countywide with the goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions for the whole county by 2050.

Cllr Rory O’Connor, Chairman of the Climate Change and Biodiversity Action SPC speaking on the matter said:  “This is a massive step forward to making Wicklow carbon neutral. As the garden county of Ireland, we have a responsibility as a Council to ensure that this name makes sense in generations to come. Ensuring that we play our part to fight climate change and keep Wicklow green. We believe that the plan to turn Arklow into a decarbonisation zone will not only be the gold standard to implement across Wicklow but also across the country.”

Decarbonisation will require a focus on energy consumption.  Studies of housing stock in Arklow demonstrated that there are significant areas and estates where retrofitting of both local authority and private housing stock is needed.

Arklow has a large and diverse industrial and enterprise activity and it is hoped there will be good opportunities to work with this sector.  Wicklow County Council will explore opportunities to work with high energy users.  As the home of the first offshore wind farm, Arklow is located at heart of significant generation of renewable energy and well-placed to lead on renewables.

Arklow like many towns in Wicklow suffers from traffic congestion and has high levels of long-distance commuters. As part of the decarbonisation process Wicklow County Council will work to explore with the community opportunities to reduce unnecessary car journeys by making active travel easier, looking at better commuting and remote working methods.

Citizen engagement will be pivotal to success in rolling out decarbonisation.  A strong Town team, Tidy Towns,  the local Chamber and the Municipal District will be key partners for development of the project.

Wicklow County Council recognises the vibrant community sector in the town and the proactive engagement of the local business community as a positive aspect which will help to embed the programme and deliver project actions.   As a pilot decarbonisation zone the whole community will have an input into shaping the future of Arklow Town, contributing to a stronger future for the town.

Arklow will be the pilot town for decarbonisation but it is important to recognise that the county has a large and growing Sustainable Energy Community network including Blessington, Glenmalure, Laragh, Wicklow, Greystones/Delgany, Newtownmountkennedy, Kilcoole and Enniskerry. All these communities are also on the journey towards decarbonisation and Wicklow County Council will work with all of them rolling out lessons learnt in Arklow and elsewhere across the county. 

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