Arklow Decarbonisation Zone - Implementation Plan

As part of Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, the country aims to reduce carbon emissions by 51% by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Action 165 of the National Climate Action Plan (2021) requires each local authority to ‘identify and develop plans for one Decarbonising Zone’ within their respective administrative area.

To test the scale and scope of this challenge, Arklow was chosen by Wicklow County Council as its pilot decarbonisation zone. We developed a decarbonisation pathway for the town, building on stakeholder engagement and responding to the unique opportunities for Arklow. The target is to reduce CO2 by 7% per annum until national targets are reached.

Key details

Project name: Arklow Decarbonisation Zone - Implementation Plan

Location: Arklow, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Client: Wicklow County Council

Services provided: 

  • Strategy and transformation
  • Project and program management
  • Net Zero Carbon


This project represented the first decarbonisation zone of its type in Ireland.  We combined technical stakeholder and sustainability experience in our team – using the experience gained on the EU Green Capitals project.

Establishing a Baseline Emissions Inventory (BEI) was the natural starting point, as it enabled the local authority to benchmark the current emissions within the town. This baseline is what all future solutions are measured against. The inventory covers eight sectors, including:

  • Residential
  • Social Housing
  • Transport
  • Commercial
  • Municipal
  • Waste
  • Wastewater

Engaging with stakeholders was challenging during this time due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We devised innovative online workshops to provide a forum for community leaders to share their views and contribute to the project. This was a collaborative effort between RPS and the local authority to identify the key organisations both within Wicklow County Council and across the wider community. As part of this, we also identified and discussed local climate action projects.

We then assembled a multi-disciplinary team to consider all aspects of the decarbonising opportunities considering energy, transport, spatial planning, place making and biodiversity across the key sectors outlined in the BEI previously developed. This resulted in a Register of Opportunities for decarbonisation.

A unique aspect of this project was the development of a Spatial Energy Demand Analysis (SEDA) for the town. The SEDA information that was made available from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) allowed our Geographic Information System (GIS) team to examine the areas of highest power and heating requirements in the town in both commercial and residential areas. The SEDA highlighted areas that may be suitable for district heating and commercial power sharing projects in the future.


We presented high-level solutions for climate action in a format that was user friendly for the client and the local community. These range from small-scale local initiatives to larger infrastructural projects. 

An overall ‘’decarbonisation pathway’ is illustrated, estimating the carbon savings from each initiative.  The governance and reporting framework to bring the plan to life is presented.  Growing the levels of engagement and participation in the project is a central theme.

The 'Arklow DZ Implementation Plan' initiatives include retrofitting of private and social housing, the installation of PV solar panels on the roofs of schools and businesses in the town, and the establishment of circular economy schemes in the community. The social housing and municipal sectors can be targeted immediately as these are in direct control of the local authority.

Solar panels on a roof.

The active travel plan developed by our planning team played a major role in targeting the transport sector. This active travel plan illustrated Arklow's journey away from traditional forms of transport in the town and its shift towards active travel, public transport and alternative fuel sources.

The client brief included a focus on Placemaking and Urban Regeneration, which called on the urban design skillsets in our team to identify focal points where physical improvements can deliver healthier and more attractive places, all for the benefit of active travel and sustainable tourism.

Additional analysis of the town will be done every five years to examine how the changes implemented by the Local Authority have contributed to the towns carbon reduction. The goal of 51% would represent a 38,386 tCO2e reduction per year in Arklow. To put this into perspective, the town would need to plant 3,763,300 trees per year to achieve the same results through sequestration.

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