Research is currently ongoing as part of An Taisce’s Legacy4Life project to deliver a low  carbon town plan, created with input from stakeholders living, working, and doing business  within the community of Maynooth, County Kildare. The plan seeks to identify improvement  opportunities that could be available, and to outline the steps to implementing such  improvements. To assist reducing Green House Gas emissions at local community level,  choices shall be informed by calculation of baseline Green House Gas emissions across  multiple emission sectors.  

Working with stakeholders in County Kildare, the first phase of this ambitious plan is to  identify the live data sets that will feed into Maynooth’s low carbon plan. This data can then  be updated annually, so that the town’s electoral division of 15,000 people will have near  real time visibility on progress, or blocks to progress in emission reductions. Baseline  emissions data shall where possible be extracted from 2022 data in line with the latest  census.  

The completed Low Carbon Town Plan will deliver a step-by-step process to guide other  communities beyond Maynooth in planning their own pathways to low carbon  improvements. As such the plan will need to provide an accurate representation of the true  sectoral emissions at the local level. The low carbon plan being trialled for Maynooth needs  to be easily replicable for both future iterations, in order to keep the plan live, and to also 

allow the plan to be replicated elsewhere. Using Maynooth’s low carbon town plan as a  framework it is also intended to assess its transferability to rural locations.  In terms of the input from community stakeholders this is likely to focus on the following  areas:  

(A) Social perspectives of community stakeholders 

(B) Prioritise low carbon target areas of greatest concern to community stakeholders  using a Scenario Planning Exercise. 

There may also be opportunities to work with local stakeholders in identifying additional  emissions data that are available at the local level, and to assist with citizen science mapping  and surveys.  

It is hoped that the derived low carbon plan will remain as a live document for annual  improvement and assessment, and that it will be replicated by other rural and urban  communities across Ireland.  

Institutional and Other Barriers:  

The barriers to creating and implementing such a low carbon plan will also be identified as  part of this project. These may be institutional, financial, data, or awareness related  barriers. Some issues have already been identified, and potentially the most challenging is  the fact that much data related to different sectoral emissions is held by different  institutions, and that it tends to be aggregated at the national level making collecting  baseline emissions for local communities a challenge.  

Another area of important consideration is defining a suitable set of sectoral themes for  emissions and their subsequent improvement. Because national and local authority climate  action plans, adaptation strategies, and other associated plans use different but related  nomenclature for defining emission sectors, and related actions, there is likely to be  confusion at the local level as to which emission sources belong to which emission sectors.  This could lead to overlap between one emission sector and another, and potentially the  double counting of emissions or sequestration of carbon and greenhouse gases. A good  example here is the acquisition of emission data for the Agricultural sector, and for the Land  Use & Land Use Change & Forestry sector. The latter can serve to encompass the emissions  or sequestration provided by the Natural Capital or Green Infrastructure of a low carbon  plan’s catchment area. It will require care not to include agricultural land within the Land  Use & Land Use Change & Forestry sector, and vice versa.  

An additional complication here has been the difficulty in accessing data for non-agricultural  land use cover. A well established data source for land use is the CORINE Land Cover (CLC)  inventory, which is a Pan-European land use and land cover mapping programme. It supplies  spatial data on the state of the European environmental landscape and how it is changing 

over time. However, CORINE only provides a resolution of 25 hectares which is not enough  to identify most parks, gardens, ponds, etc. Furthermore, the land use types indicated by  CORINE for the Maynooth electoral division are too restrictive, displaying only Continuous  Urban Fabric, or Pastures. Further investigation of alternative land use data sources is  ongoing with enquiries being made to the EPA, NUI Maynooth, and Kildare County Council.  It may prove to be the case that land use data is not yet available or extensive enough at the  local level in Ireland to facilitate the capture of such emissions. An alternative option could  involve the citizen science mapping of local land use features coupled with the EPA  emissions factors for land use to deliver local level land use emissions and/or sequestration  of carbon.  

Community Low Carbon Planning:  

Community participation with data acquisition will be a vital part of the process for  developing a usable low carbon plan. This is required to deliver intelligence on the opinions,  preferred low carbon scenarios, and the improvement projects that are likely to receive the  required level of support in order to succeed. It is also the case that greater community  engagement with a low carbon community plan can be anticipated where the community  has had a role in defining its preferred direction of travel.  

Community participation, or citizen engagement as it is referred to within climate action  plans, is recognised as being vital for reaching Ireland’s 2030 and 2050 emission targets. This  is because it will require a strong effort at community engagement to carry the message of  energy and climate awareness into people’s lives and to affect our collective behaviour. To  carry the public along the journey toward 2050 carbon neutrality we will need to include 

stakeholders in the planning of our low carbon towns and communities, and to adjust on  societies terms when necessary.  

The importance of community participation is addressed within national policy and  legislation pertinent to climate action and a future low carbon economy. Within the “Public  Involvement” section of the “Pre-Legislative Scrutiny on the draft of the 2021 Climate Action  Bill” by the Joint Committee on Climate Action, it was recommended that the new bill  should:  

“implement a permanent, large scale public involvement strategy to include:  

  1. informing members of the public, including vulnerable and impacted  

communities, about the targets specified by virtue of the Act;  

  1. encouraging and supporting them to contribute to the achievement of  

those targets;  

  1. affording them opportunity to inform carbon budget preparation and  

climate policy more generally.  

The public involvement strategy must, in particular, identify actions which persons  in Ireland may take to contribute to the achievement of climate neutrality.”  

(Joint Committee on Climate Action, 2020, p.34).  

The resulting Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 instead  delegate’s public involvement to a local authority consultation as part of their local  authority climate action plan:  

“In making the local authority climate action plan, a local authority  


(b) consult with the Public Participation Network in the administrative  

area of the local authority and such other persons as the local authority considers  appropriate,” 


Regardless, the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, has  now made a legal commitment for Ireland to be climate neutral no later than 2050, and to  reduce emissions by 51% by 2030. This will need to be delivered by consulting with  communities on how they can, and will, be prepared to deliver on these legal commitments.  The importance of societal understanding, and support for Ireland’s climate action  measures are pointedly made within the 2019 National Climate Action Plan:  

“Those societies who delay the transition needed will face higher costs and fewer  opportunities. This plan is designed to demonstrate the determination of Government to  shape a path to a decarbonised world. However, what is unique about this challenge is that  change must happen in every home, in every workplace and in every network which supports  our lifestyle. This requires a very high level of engagement, buy-in and motivation.”  (GOVERNMENT OF IRELAND, 2019, p135) 

The acquisition of baseline emissions data, and further research into emissions reduction  options and preferences, will be addressed in the following manner for Maynooth’s low  carbon plan:  


Ireland's 2021 Climate Action Plan: 

The 2021 Climate Action Plan was published on the 4th of November 2021, by the  Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, on behalf of the  Government of Ireland. This latest Climate Action Plan looks in greater detail, than the  previous 2019 plan, at the emissions savings to be delivered by the 6 thematic sectors of:  Electricity, Transport, Buildings, Industry, Agriculture, and Land Use/Change and Forestry. It  also attempts to assign a projected costing of achieving these emissions savings, and to  break this down into transferred costs (those that would have been incurred anyway), and  incremental costs (new costs to be borne by the economy and society).  

Many of the actions and changes to lifestyle identified within both the 2019 and 2021  Climate Action Plan will require upfront costs and some inconvenience to stakeholders and  the wider public, although many of these low carbon technologies and actions will  ultimately deliver cost savings and opportunities for growth in the longer term. To ensure  

the benefits and costs are shared across society the plans contain sections addressing “Just  Transition”. Situations where these costs cannot easily be mitigated will also be identified  within the Green Communities Low Carbon Plan. One obvious example related to the  retrofit of residential dwellings for greater energy efficiency is identified within the 2021  Maynooth Energy Master Plan. This identifies the need for a mechanism to engage with  rented properties to facilitate retrofit and engagement with the Renewable Energy Support  Scheme:  

“Homes rented from private landlords can suffer from a phenomenon called split incentives  where landlords do not feel the benefits from improving energy efficiencies as tenants pay  electricity and heating bills. A strong strategy of engagement and encouragement will be  required for landlords until obligatory measures are put in place around rented  accommodation upgrades.”  

(ORS, 2021, p21)  

The 2021 Climate Action Plan contains an entire section of “Citizen Engagement”, which is  indicative of the importance of public engagement in delivering on the aims of the climate  action plan itself:  

“Our experience to date shows that, as we move forward, we need systematic and active  engagement with stakeholders and the public across Ireland at local and national level.”  


The plan states that the National Dialogue on Climate Change will provide the strategic  vehicle for this public engagement and participation in the following key ways:  

“1. Improving climate literacy by creating awareness about, and promoting understanding of,  climate change.  

  1. Funding, supporting, and enabling active engagement in climate action at a local and  national level, conducting public consultations, and promoting self-efficacy by empowering the  public to adopt more sustainable behaviours.  
  2. Capturing insights from engagement activities and conducting social and behavioural  research to measure behavioural change and provide an evidence base to inform the Climate  Action Plan and sectoral climate policies.”  


It is the opinion of An Taisce Legacy4LIFE that the creation of a Green Communities Low  Carbon Town Plan template and methodology, based on the research being conducted with  stakeholders in Maynooth, will deliver significant progress across all three of these National  Dialogue on Climate Change objectives. If the derived low carbon plan proves to be  implementable, and replicable, then there is the opportunity to partner with the National  Dialogue on Climate Change to implement an accredited Green Communities Low Carbon  Plan programme nationally: 

“The majority of the NDCA work programme will involve the design and delivery of activities to  help people and stakeholders take an active role in delivering on climate action. This includes  providing funding for innovative projects and ideas, …”  


Inevitably the 2021 Climate Action Plan has a strong economic focus, and much of the plan  puts forward the need and benefit to businesses in engaging with both the plan and the  Green Recovery. The rational for this is succinctly summarised thus:  

“Delivery of CAP21 could benefit Irish businesses in various ways. For Irish business, the  stakes are high. The strong global commitment to net-zero and the 'race to the top’ that is  underway means that not acting carries a real risk of being left behind – producing outdated  products for changing markets and consumer demands.”  


As would be expected, many of the draft sectoral themes dealing with emissions for  Maynooth’s Low Carbon Plan are pertinent to business and commercial activity. Among  them the following will be prominent:  

Ireland’s National Inventory Report on Green House Gas Emissions:

The high level of community engagement that will be engendered by a low carbon plan of  this nature is clearly required, as is indicated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s  provisional National Inventory Report for 2021. In Ireland it is the Environmental Protection  Agency (EPA) that has overall responsibility for the country’s national greenhouse gas 

inventory. For each year a National Inventory Report (NIR) is prepared by the EPA, and then  submitted to the EU and the UN. Currently Ireland’s most recently published National  Inventory Report for Greenhouse Gas Emissions covers the period from 1990-2020. While  the National Inventory report for Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas emissions 1990-2021 will not be  due for publication until October 2023, provisional estimates of our greenhouse gas  emissions for the time period 1990-2021 have been made available in advance of the final  inventory data being submitted to the EU and United Nations in 2023. These provisional  results indicate that Ireland’s overall greenhouse gas emissions increased by 4.7 % from  2020 to 2021, and this constitutes an increase of 2.76 Million Tonnes of CO2 equivalent  green house gas emissions above our 2020 emissions. When the additional sectoral theme  of “Land Use and Land Use Change and Forestry” is included the increase in our emissions  inventory is 5.5% at 3.59 Million Tonnes of CO2 equivalent green house gas emissions above  our 2020 emissions level. 

Ireland’s 2021 annual emissions in Mega Tonnes of CO2 equivalent, without (left) and with Land Use  and Land Use Change and Forestry (right) emissions. EPA Slide from Ireland’s Provisional  Greenhouse Gas emissions 1990-2021 briefing on 21st July 2022. 

The main sectoral contributors to the emissions increase were:  

 Energy Industry +17.6%  

 Transport +6.1%  

 Agriculture +3.0%  

 Residential -4.9%  

The main drivers for this increase in our 2021 inventory were greater coal usage, and less  wind generation within the energy sector that meant more emissions from electricity 

generation. There was 16% less wind generated electricity, and a 20% decrease in hydro electric generation in 2021 than the previous year, which in turn led to a tripling of coal and  oil use in 2021 compared to 2020.  

Transport emissions increased largely due to the lifting of COVID restrictions, and a return to  commuting to work. These factors did also have the positive benefit of reducing our  residential sector greenhouse gas emissions by 4.9% as people returned to work from home  after numerous lockdowns.  

The continued emission increases from agriculture are driven primarily by enteric  fermentation of dairy cattle and other farm animals releasing methane. It is worth noting  that a single dairy cow produces the same amount of CO2 equivalent green house gas  emissions as a house, at 3.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emission per year!  

Land Use Carbon Emissions and Removals:  

The sectoral theme of “Land Use and Land Use Change and Forestry” is of particular interest  to low carbon planning as it is the only sectoral theme that offers us the ability, albeit on a  limited scale, to actually remove carbon as opposed to just reducing carbon emissions as is  the case with other emission sectors. This is because some forms of land use actually  remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and carbon from soil and water, namely;  Forestry, Crops, and Harvested Wood Products.  

One surprising feature of the EPA’s “Data for Ireland’s Provisional Green House Gas  Emissions 1990-2021” is that wetlands have been consistently a source of significant  emissions, rather than a sink for carbon sequestration. This data is available for download  from the EPA website, and indicates that wetlands were responsible for:  

 “2.9% [of all National Green House Gas Emissions in 2021, at] 2003.45 Kilotonnes CO2eq [in  2021]”  

(EPA, 2022a)  

While it is not surprising that wetlands contribute to green house gas emissions, through the  anaerobic breakdown or organic material, it would not have been expected that this would  contribute toward Ireland’s Green House Gas emissions as:  

“Globally, natural wetlands contribute significantly to total GHG emissions to the  atmosphere. Natural emissions, however, are not considered under normal UNFCCC  reporting procedures.”  

(O’Brien P, EPA, 2007, p35)  

However, much of Ireland’s wetlands have been drained to provide land for agriculture,  forestry and/or peat extraction: 

The IPCC Wetlands category has been sub divided into natural unexploited wetlands  (unmanaged), and exploited peatlands, the latter being managed wetland areas that are  drained for the purpose of commercial and domestic harvesting of peat for combustion (in  1.A.1.a, 1.A.1.c and 1.A.4.b) and/or horticultural use.  

(EPA, 2022b, p192)  

The degradation of Ireland’s wetlands has resulted in stored organic carbon being exposed  to the air and oxidising to create carbon dioxide emissions, as well as increasing the amount  of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) that is removed from the former pristine wetland through  drainage.  

“Ireland’s land use, land use change and forestry sector is currently a carbon source rather  than a carbon sink. To reduce emissions and move to being an overall store of carbon, will  involve further bog rehabilitation, increased afforestation, improved management of  grasslands on mineral soils, increasing the use of cover crops in tillage, and the rewetting of  organic soils.”  


Considering the potential for Ireland’s peat bogs to provide a carbon sink this is  disappointing, because:  

Intact peatlands are an efficient carbon sink, but damaged peatlands are a major source of  greenhouse gas emissions, annually releasing almost 6% of global CO2 emissions.  (Tierney N, BBC, 2020)  

For reference here are the emission factors for Irish wetlands, as specified by the IPCC  Wetland Supplement (CO2 only, CH4 and NOX have additional emissions factors):  

Peat Extraction [Peatlands]:  

For CO2 emissions, default on-site EF-land 2.8 t C ha-1 and the EF_DOC [Dissolved Organic  Carbon through drainage] of 0.31 t C ha-1  

Rewetting of Organic Soils [Rehabilitated Peatland/Bogs]:  

On-site emissions are estimated based on the area of rewetted soils, the default emission  factor EFCO2 of -0.23 (Table 3.1 and Eq 3.4 of the 2013 IPCC Wetland Supplement). Off-site  DOC emissions are estimated using Eq. 3.5 and the default EFDOC-rewetted of -0.24 [t C ha 1] 

(EPA, 2022b, p238)  

As we can see from the above emissions factors there is great potential in rewetting  cutaway bogs, and clear-felled forestry planted on peatland. Note that the emissions factors  above are only representing carbon emissions and removals engendered by the land use.  The additional carbon emissions caused by fuel combustion or saved by preservation of the 

peatland would be dealt with under the energy emissions theme. While peatland  rewetting/bogland restoration might not be a low carbon reduction action available to the  Maynooth Electoral Division under the sectoral theme of Land Use, it will be an important  mechanism for reducing carbon emissions elsewhere in the country where cutaway bogs are  significantly present. For the Maynooth Electoral Division it is anticipated that the most  significant land use factor in terms of carbon reduction will be afforestation.  

Initial Progress:  

An Taisce Legacy4Life have been working closely with Maynooth University (NUIM) to  identify a strategy for baseline emissions, emissions abatement intervention research,  community engagement and surveys, and business engagement as part of the Maynooth  Low Carbon Plan.  

In order to provide a realistic roadmap for baseline Green House Gas emissions within the  Green Communities Low Carbon Plan for Maynooth, that can then be replicated elsewhere,  default IPCC emission factors will be used where possible for both the Land Use, and  Agricultural emissions sectors. Codema guidance will also be used for agriculture and other  emission sectors. The primary guidance document being Codema’s “Developing CO2  Baselines a Step-by-Step Guide for Your Local Authority (2017)”.  

For calculating the baseline emissions of the Agricultural Sectoral Theme within the  Maynooth Electoral Division, the following multi-stage process of this complex emission  sector theme will be utilised:  

Agricultural Energy Emissions:  

(A) Acquire CSO list of all farm animals in the electoral division.  

(B) Identify cropland type and area using LPIS (LPIS is a spatial mapping system that  shows all the outlines of farm land held by farmers receiving payments from the  European Union. This documents all the type of crops grown, their locations, and  area. This data is held by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM)).  

(C) Calculate Energy use for farm animals and crops in accordance with  Codema’s “Developing CO2 Baselines a Step-by-Step Guide for Your Local Authority”.  

Agricultural Soil Emissions:  

(D) In combination with (B) Reference EPA NIR for appropriate default emission factor  nomenclature (for Cropland, and Grassland shallow-drained nutrient-rich), and then  extract these values from the relevant table (e.g. CO2 emissions factors = Table 2.1  of the 2013 IPCC Wetland Supplement) within the 2013 IPCC Wetland Supplement.  This for CO2, CH4, NOX. 

Agricultural Enteric Fermentation Emissions: 

(E) In Combination with (A) Reference Annex 3.3. Of the EPA NIR. Table 3.3.B provides  the Methane Emission Factors for Enteric Fermentation of different farm animals.  

Agricultural Manure Management Emissions:  

(F) In Combination with (A) Reference Annex 3.3. Of the EPA NIR. Table 3.3.C Methane  Emission Factors for Manure Management of different farm animals.  

This process will provide values for 97% of agriculture emissions within the Maynooth  Electoral Division, (Note: Liming, and Urea not measured). For reference see:  https://assets.gov.ie/216791/9b1cd3da-238f-4a08-9f1f-550edc0712bc.pdf 

Maynooth Electoral Division as a low Carbon Plan Test Site:  

It has been decided to conduct the pilot Low Carbon Town Plan at the electoral division  level. This is because the electoral division is the smallest CSO boundary area for which  Census of Agriculture mapping data is available. The Maynooth Electoral Division also offers  a wide array of different last uses and infrastructure that are relevant to low carbon  planning. For a replicable low carbon plan methodology it is important to have this variety  which would not be available within a purely urban, or a purely rural setting.  

The reasoning behind the choice of the Maynooth Electoral Division, as a site to pilot design  and engagement with a low carbon plan, is a combination of locally available resources.  These can assist with the plan’s development, and also provide a combination of spatial and  infrastructure features that will be useful in defining the scope, reach, and potential of a low  carbon town or rural plan.  

These features include:  

A desire by Maynooth SEC to build a coalition of interested community and business  organisations  

The existing Royal Canal Greenway  

Maynooth has a Rooftop Solar Potential of 2.3Million KWh  

A Net Zero LIDL Maynooth Planning Submission  

Alignment with Kildare County Council’s designated Decarbonising Zone  Publication of a Just Transition Plan for West Kildare  

Publication of the Maynooth SEC Master Energy Plan  

Strong SME and multinational business representation  

Good Public Transport Links  

Strong alignment with relevant academic research at NUI Maynooth 

Existing An Taisce programme representation at Maynooth; Green Campus, Green  Flag Award for Parks Scheme  

Strong integration with Green Campus and Maynooth Town  

Outreach office at Maynooth University for “Project Live”  


I would like to thank the following organisations and stakeholders for their support and  advice to date:  

Codema, EPA, Kildare Chamber, Kildare County Council, Maynooth University (NUIM),  Maynooth SEC, Maynooth-Kilcock Green Forum, SEAI, Teagasc.  


Environmental Protection Agency (2022a) Data for Ireland’s Provisional Green House Gas  Emissions 1990-2021. Available at: https://www.epa.ie/publications/monitoring-- assessment/climate-change/air-emissions/irelands-provisional-greenhouse-gas-emissions 1990-2021.php 

Environmental Protection Agency (2022b) Ireland’s National Inventory Report 2022:  Greenhouse Gas Emissions 1990-2020. Available at:  

https://www.epa.ie/publications/monitoring--assessment/climate-change/air emissions/irelands-national-inventory-submissions-2022.php  

GOVERNMENT OF IRELAND (2019) Climate Action Plan 2019: to Tackle Climate  Breakdown. Dublin. Available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/ccb2e0-the-climate action-plan-2019/.  

GOVERNMENT OF IRELAND (2021a) Climate Action and Low Carbon Development  (Amendment) Bill 2021. Dublin: Department of the Environment, Climate and  Communications. Available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/984d2-climate-action-and low-carbon-development-amendment-bill-2020/.  

GOVERNMENT OF IRELAND (2021b) Climate Action Plan 2021: Securing our Future.  Dublin. Available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/6223e-climate-action-plan-2021/.  

Joint Committee on Climate Action (2020) Pre-Legislative Scrutiny on the draft of the  Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2020. Dublin. Available at:  https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/committee/dail/33/joint_committee_on_climate_action /reports/2020/2020-12-18_pre-legislative-scrutiny-on-the-draft-of-the-climate-action-and-low carbon-development-amendment-bill-2020_en.pdf.  

O’Brien P, Environmental Protection Agency (2007) Data Analysis and Estimation of  Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removal for the IPCC Sector Land Use, Land-Use Change  and Forestry Sectors in Ireland. Available at: 

https://www.epa.ie/publications/research/climate-change/data-analysis-and-estimation-of-- greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-removal-for-the-ipcc-sector-land-use-land-use-change-and forestry-sectors-in-ireland.php 

ORS (2021) Maynooth Energy Master Plan: Maynooth Sustainable Energy Community.  

Tierney N, BBC (2020) How Ireland is abandoning its dirty fuel. Available at:  https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20201203-peat-the-decline-of-the-worlds-dirtiest-fuel