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Displaying items by tag: Climate Change

New binding targets for greenhouse gas reductions in shipping are among a range of measures agreed today (Friday 3 June) by EU transport ministers today to reduce emissions in the transport sector in the coming decade.

The new measures, which are to apply to all EU member states, have been negotiated over the last 12 months and agreed under the EU’s “Fit for 55” package: the flagship suite of legislation announced last July to ensure the bloc meets its 2030 climate targets. The EU is aiming for a minimum 55% reduction in GHG emissions compared to 1990 levels.

With this agreement, the stage is set for negotiations with the European Parliament on the final text of these important pieces of legislation.

Welcoming the agreement reached, Ireland’s Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan stressed the importance of the progress made: “This agreement is the result of almost a year of intensive discussions. It is imperative that the EU puts ambitious targets in place if we are to meet our collective goals for the climate.

“Action is urgently needed, not only for road transport but also to realise genuine emission reductions in aviation and shipping. Today’s agreement shows that the EU can be the global leader on climate change.”

Minister Ryan said that while Ireland had pushed for even greater ambition in certain aspects of the maritime and aviation fuel files, the council-agreed texts represent a strong step forward in transitioning towards more sustainable fuels in both sectors.

Published in Ports & Shipping

East Cork, Waterford, Galway and the Shannon Estuary will be the first to bear the brunt of an “alarming and startling” rise in sea levels, a TD has warned.

As the Irish Examiner reports, David Stanton (Cork East) expressed his fears of a “truly frightening” outcome for many coastal communities in the continued absence of a national coastal risk strategy.

“There is no point waiting until the seawater is up to our knees and then saying we should have planned for this 20 years ago,” he said.

The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes
Tagged under

The 2022 EIFAAC Symposium will be hosted by Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications at Randles Hotel in Killarney on 20-21 June.

The rubric for the 31st symposium of the European Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture Advisory Commission — the first since Dresden, Germany in September 2019 — is ‘Advances in Technology, Stock Assessment and Citizen Science in an Era of Climate Change’.

Four themes have been identified for the symposium relating to inland fish stock assessment, developments in freshwater fish monitoring technologies, assessing the impacts of climate change on freshwater fish and their habitats and the role of citizen science. The fifth theme will focus on the pros and cons of traditional vs recirculation aquaculture systems.

Abstract submission is open for presenters until this Friday 18 February. Notification of acceptance letters all be sent on 25 March and presenting authors will have until 28 March to register. The deadline for submission of manuscripts/presentations is 13 June, one week before the symposium.

For those wishing to attend, early-bird registration is now open at €120 (students €80) until 1 April. Payment made after this date will incur an extra administration charge of €20.

For more details on attending the conference, see the IFI website HERE.

Published in Aquaculture

In Co Wexford, a seven-year-old boy has joined the grassroots effort to conserve vulnerable seagrass beds around Ireland’s coastline.

According to RTÉ News, Shem Berry has lent a helping hand to volunteers who have been clearing an invasive seaweed, Sargassum muticum, which smothers a seagrass meadow at Kilmore Quay.

Seagrass meadows are considered key ‘blue carbon’ habitats, acting as a natural carbon-capture store while also filtering sediments, keeping shorelines stable and providing a safe home for inshore marine wildlife.

“I think it’s important to look after the environment, not only on land, but on the sea,” said Shem.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, environmental NGO Coastwatch has called for seagrass habitats to be specified for protection under the State’s new marine planning legislation.

RTÉ News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes

Space agencies in Europe and the US have signed a partnership to monitor rising sea levels and temperatures, melting ice, thawing permafrost and other impacts of climate breakdown.

NASA in the US and the European Space Agency (ESA) formalised the partnership this week with a “statement of intent”.

The agreement signed by ESA director-general Josef Aschbacher and NASA administrator Bill Nelson aims to “pave the way to leading a global response to climate change”, the organisations state.

“Climate change is an all-hands-on-deck, global challenge that requires action – now,” Nelson said.

“NASA and ESA are leading the way in space, building an unprecedented strategic partnership in Earth science,” he said.

“ This agreement will set the standard for future international collaboration, providing the information that is so essential for tackling the challenges posed by climate change and helping to answer and address the most pressing questions in Earth science for the benefit of the US, Europe, and the world,” he added.

This is not the first time ESA and NASA have joined forces – both bodies worked together on field campaigns in the Arctic to validate respective missions.

The two agencies also work together and with other partners on the recently launched Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission, a new project to extend the long-term record of sea-level rise.

In May, NASA announced its Earth System Observatory, which will design a new set of Earth-focused missions to provide key information to guide efforts related to climate change, disaster mitigation, fighting forest fires, and improving real-time agricultural processes.

This week’s joint statement of intent “complements activities underway for the Earth System Observatory”, they state.

Both ESA and NASA are currently defining a new gravity mission to shed new light on essential processes of the Earth system, such as the water cycle.

This will ‘weigh’ water in its various locations, such as underground and in the oceans, to understand water mass distribution and transport, they explain.

Josef Aschbacher said that “without doubt, space is the best vantage point to measure and monitor climate change, but joining forces is also key to tackling this global issue”.

“Timing is also important, particularly as we look to the COP26 climate conference later this year, where we have the chance to further make space an integral part of the solution when it comes to climate-change mitigation,” he said.

Published in Marine Science
Tagged under

This month the Marine Institute will launch a funding call for a major programme of marine science research in the area of ‘blue carbon’.

The absorption and storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the world’s oceans and coastal regions has been identified as one of the ways in which marine ecosystems can reduce the impacts of climate change.

Funding of up to €1.6m has been earmarked for the call to support a large-scale research project to run from 2021 to 2026.

Launched in June 2020, Ireland’s Programme for Government recognised the “the enormous blue carbon potential that the ocean has to offer in tackling climate change”.

Collaborative research initiative

The Government tasked the Marine Institute — the State agency responsible for marine research and innovation — with a collaborative research initiative, aimed at investigating the climate-change mitigation potential of blue carbon and working towards creating an inventory that will assist the EU in meeting Ireland’s climate-change objectives.

In order to prepare the ground for such a large-scale research programme, the Marine Institute commissioned a synthesis report to review existing knowledge on blue carbon habitats and their role as carbon sinks in Ireland. This report was published in May 2021.

“Blue carbon refers to carbon which is stored, or sequestered, in the ocean and in vegetated habitats around coastal regions,” explains the report’s lead author Dr Grace Cott, assistant professor at the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science.

“In terms of blue carbon which we can actively manage, what we are really referring to is the vegetation in coastal regions, and that means three main habitats: firstly, mangrove forests — which we don’t have in Ireland and are mostly found in tropical regions — secondly, salt-marsh habitats and finally, seagrass meadows.”

From photosynthesis to sediment trapping

Carbon sequestration — the long-term capture and storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere – can take place through a range of natural processes, from photosynthesis to sediment trapping, where carbon-based sediments from the tide are physically trapped by vegetation.

The Marine Institute report points out that Ireland’s tidally influenced coastal wetlands comprise approximately 160 square kilometres of salt-marsh and seagrass beds. Globally, although these habitats represent a much smaller area than terrestrial forests, their total contribution to long-term carbon storage is comparable to carbon sinks in tropical forests.

According to Dr Cott, salt marshes in Ireland are up to 10 times more efficient than agricultural grasslands at storing carbon on a per area basis. This is mainly due to the lack of microbial decomposition in these wet regions, which inland causes the release of carbon from the soil as carbon dioxide.

Supporting blue carbon into the future

The loss and destruction of vegetated coastal ecosystems threatens their ability to function as long-term carbon sinks, and mismanagement can lead to the release of stored carbon back into the atmosphere, says Dr Cott.

“But there is hope in the management of these resources,” she explains. “Even though researchers need to conduct further research into the matter, we are already becoming aware of certain strategies which can help preserve our blue carbon habitats around the Irish coast.”

These include allowing salt mash habitats to migrate inland, and improving water quality to optimise carbon capture in seagrass beds.

“Looking ahead, I believe that Ireland will need an appropriate management framework, led by Government, to enhance protection of these habitats in relation to carbon sequestration,” Dr Cott adds.

Published in Marine Science

European Commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen will be among the speakers at a high-level summit hosted by the organisers of The Ocean Race Europe next month.

The Ocean Race Summit Europe on Wednesday 16 June aims to help drive new and improved policies to tackle some of the most urgent issues facing our blue planet — from the impact of climate change to the lack of governance and protection for our sea and whether the ocean should be given ‘rights’.

Von Der Leyen and Brussels colleague Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Ocean and Fisheries will virtually join a diverse group of speakers and exclusively invited participants from across the world — comprising leading experts from the worlds of government, science, industry, NGOs, media and sport.

Among them are Mumta Ito, lawyer and Founder of the NGO Nature’s Rights, who will reveal why giving the ocean rights could help to ensure its future, and Tommy E Remengesau, former president of the Republic of Palau, who will discuss leading the way in ocean protection.

Alongside these leading voices will be the unique perspectives of sailors, who have unrivalled experiences of the ocean. Annie Lush from Offshore Team Germany will reveal what life is like on the high seas and how offshore racers are helping scientists understand climate and weather systems.

Other confirmed speakers include:

  • Pascal Lamy, president of the Paris Peace Forum and chair of the EU Mission Starfish 2030, talking on the ambitious mission to revamp ocean governance;
  • Dr Emily Pidgeon, vice president of Ocean Science and Innovation, talking about the importance of including the ocean in the climate conversation;
  • Teresa Ribera, Fourth Deputy Vice President and Minister for Ecological Transition for Spain, on the need to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030;
  • Valerie Cabanes, international law expert and co-founder of End Ecocide on Earth, who will reveal what ecocide means for people and nature; and
  • Manu San Felix, marine biologist from Ibiza Preservation and a specialist in the protection of posidonia (seagrass), who will highlight how the ocean can be a hero in the climate crisis.

The Ocean Race Summit in Newport, Rhode Island gathered over 680 registered participants from around the world | Credit: Ainhoa Sanchez/The Ocean RaceThe Ocean Race Summit in Newport, Rhode Island gathered over 680 registered participants from around the world | Credit: Ainhoa Sanchez/The Ocean Race

Hosted by renowned television presenter and science communicator Danni Washington, the event will also be held virtually — featuring local speakers live from The Ocean Race’s home city of Alicante in Spain with a live link to Brussels.

Richard Brisius, race chairman of The Ocean Race, said: “We have one ocean, but the way it is protected and governed is splintered. When you add to this the impact of climate change, it is a recipe for disaster for our marine world. We urgently need to create a better system, with collaboration at the heart of it.

“Sailors in The Ocean Race have seen more of the ocean, and its decline, than most people on the planet. Our Race is all about teamwork, overcoming challenges and achieving the extraordinary.

“We can apply this through our summits, to help drive change for the ocean. Sport has the power to make a real difference for the planet and we are going to do all we can to make the most of this opportunity.”

The summit will be live-streamed on The Ocean Race: Racing with Purpose YouTube channel and takes place during The Ocean Race Europe, which starts on 29 May in Lorient, France and finishes in Genoa, Italy with a coastal race on 19 June.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

Ireland is represented in an international team of researchers who have identified a possible link between human-caused climate change and a weakening of the Gulf Stream.

And as The Irish Times reports, a continued weakening of the Atlantic Ocean current system could mean more extreme weather for Ireland — and an end to our typically mild climate.

The researchers’ study, published in journal Nature Geoscience, used a variety of sources to plot the history of the flow of the Gulf Stream: the Atlantic Ocean current that pulls warm water from the equator north while pushing colder water south and, via its extension as the North Atlantic Drift, gives Ireland and the UK our mild, wet weather.

Maynooth University’s Dr Levke Caesar, lead author on the study, said the team combined three different types of data — including deep-sea sediment samples dating back many centuries — to reveal “a robust picture of the overturning circulation” in the Atlantic.

It’s this picture that’s a worrying one for climate scientists, as it shows a distinct weakening of the Gulf Stream’s flow since the mid 20th century, and a trend that suggests it could reach a tipping point by the end of this century.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Weather

The 2022-23 edition of The Ocean Race is set to mark a sea change in its commitment to the environment by expanding the gathering of scientific data across the fleet.

On a recent transatlantic crossing by 11th Hour Racing Team — captained by Cork sailor James O’Mahony, with race veteran Damian Foxall as sustainability programme manager — high-quality oceanographic data was relayed ashore in real-time to improve models and predictions on ocean health and climate.

During the August voyage the boat’s crew used an onboard OceanPack — a device which records essential ocean data including surface temperature, salinity and dissolved CO2 — to sample seawater on a continuous basis and transmit the data live, rather than on arrival in port as in the last edition of the race.

The crew aboard the IMOCA 60 racing yacht also deployed a Drifter Buoy on the passage from France to Rhode Island in a target area where there is a gap in buoy coverage, for long-term real-time monitoring of ocean conditions.

“We want to build on the amazing success of our award-winning Sustainability Programme during the 2017-18 edition, which led the way in terms of offshore ocean data collection by a sailing event,” said Anne-Cécile Turner, The Ocean Race’s sustainability director.

“Everything we are doing under our new Racing with Purpose initiative, which has been developed in collaboration with 11th Hour Racing — our founding sustainability partner as well as the premier partner of the race — is aimed at taking that legacy and accelerating action to improve ocean health.”

She added: “The new and pioneering scientific equipment, now 30% lighter and 20% more energy efficient, is yet another example of the innovative record of onboard instrumentation.

“And, paired with the fact that teams on The Ocean Race go deep into some of the most remote areas on the planet like the Southern Ocean, it means that we are again in a unique position to contribute, this time to gather real-time scientific data to help inform decision making.”

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

Scientists led by an Irish team on board the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Explorer (returned yesterday) to the Port of Galway, after 24 days in the Nordic and Greenland Seas to investigate past climate change in the Arctic region.

Scientists involved, reports GalwayBay FM, were from NUI Galway, University of Southampton UK, University of Bremen, Germany, and Bergen University Norway, have been monitoring and capturing a record of temperature, salinity and the carbonate system

Lead scientist, Dr Audrey Morley, School of Geography and Archaeology, NUI Galway says their research is unique, as they are assessing how essential climate variables have evolved since before pre-industrial conditions.

The survey aims to define a more comprehensive description of the Nordic Seas ecosystem and provide insight into how essential climate variables are recorded in geologic archives.

Click here for more on the story and also the survey which examined the past to assist in understanding the future of climate change. 

Published in Marine Science
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Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

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