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Preparing for the challenges of global climate change


Simon McKeever

Chief Executive, Irish Exporters Association

Climate change, on a micro and macro level, is our generation’s defining challenge. As an island nation, Ireland is, and will increasingly be, particularly affected by the multi-faceted effects of a changing climate over the coming years.

Irish businesses, especially those in the food and drink sectors, but also in the logistics and transport sectors, must consider and adapt to measures to manage and mitigate the different effects on their businesses.

We welcome the many steps already taken by the IEA membership and the Irish government at local, regional and national level to reduce their environmental impacts through investments in innovative and sustainable solutions to agricultural development, manufacturing and logistics. However, more can and must be done at all levels to reduce Ireland’s reliance on fossil fuels and accelerate the transition to a zero-emissions economy.

Businesses must be supported through sustainability changes

The time for detailed action on tackling climate change is now; albeit it must be accompanied by a sustainable action plan and supports for businesses.

Tightened rules and regulations, designed to limit environmental impacts, are already significantly influencing manufacturers’ design and production processes. The European Union’s Circular Economy package for example, which entered into force in July 2018, sets ambitious recycling targets on packaging and packaging waste. With this new legislation, the European Commission aims to ‘close the loop’ in product lifecycles through mandating their improved recycling and re-use.

Target: Recycling 70% of all EU packaging waste by 2030

With ambitious recycling targets of 70% of all EU packaging waste by 2030, including 80% of ferrous metals, 60% of aluminium, 55% of plastics and 30% of wood, these regulatory changes are already influencing future product design for manufacturing businesses.

In addition, ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ schemes place further governance obligations and compliance costs on goods manufacturers to ensure their environmental sustainability.

Manufacturers may move to electric or hybrid HGVs

It is not just regulatory compliance costs that we are facing. As a consequence of our geography, and particular reliance on short-sea shipping to the European mainland, Irish exporting and importing businesses will equally be bound to address and prepare for a number of potential transportation challenges.

For many exporting and transport companies, these range from the potential transition to the use of alternative transport fuels such as electric vehicles for last-mile delivery or hydrogen powered HGVs to the development of fully integrated multimodal transport networks combining air, rail, sea and road cargo movements and digital technologies such as blockchain to streamline the transportation process.

Our global climate is changing, both environmentally and in the nature of how and where Irish businesses trade. Besides the political remit to trade, climate change is our generation’s defining challenge and the moment for detailed action is now.

While many difficult decisions lie ahead of us in addressing the different challenges arising from effectively preparing and mitigating the impacts of climate change on the Irish exporting community, the Irish Exporters Association will continue to stand ready at a political, technical and business level to assist our members in maximising their businesses opportunities in the face of the climate change.

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