University of Limerick
ODoherty_2012_quantitative.pdf (3.38 MB)

A quantitative assessment of policies to increase environmental sustainability of medium to large sized settlements in Ireland

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posted on 2022-10-04, 10:32 authored by Travis O'Doherty
A major challenge facing the world is the need to enhance sustainability urgently as we face the inter-related challenges of climate change, dependence on fossil fuels, food shortages and growing population. The International Panel on Climate Change indicates very high confidence that the effect of human activities has been one of warming. If nations are to stabilise carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations at 550- 590ppm, then global emissions need to peak between 2010 and 2030. Given the slow movement towards a more sustainable system, more radical and systematic policies are needed. While technological development is crucial, significant gains may be made through the wider adoption of existing proven technologies through improved planning and behaviour change, on the basis that if such technologies be used to their full effect there would be a large reduction in human impact on the environment and dependency on fossil fuels. It is however unclear to policy makers which technologies should be prioritised and there is need for quantitative evidence to guide policy prioritisation and implementation. Work described here aims to identify and evaluate feasible policy interventions aimed at Irish citizens which would be expected to increase sustainability. Quantitative data on more than 300 economic, social and environmental attributes of 79 small to medium sized urban Irish settlements were assembled into a database. This provided a baseline against which projected impacts of fresh policy implementation may be evaluated. The method has been named Sustainability Evaluation Metric for Policy Recommendation (SEMPRe), and is designed to be user-friendly for decision makers. SEMPRe assigns each candidate policy a numeric value indicating its projected effectiveness in enhancing settlement sustainability as an aid to evidence based decision making. SEMPRe estimates the impact of proposed policies, using peer-reviewed published analyses and direct Irish experience. The most cited and appropriate policies were chosen in the policy arenas of transport, food, housing and urban form, energy, waste and water. As a further step in facilitating selection of most appropriate policies, a novel method using multi-criteria decision analysis was developed for feasibility testing of policy initiatives. As further quantitative assessment of impacts of additional policies are published in future, the range of policies testable will increase. The method has been developed for Irish urban areas but may have relevance for policy prioritisation in other comparable states.



  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Moles, Richard

Second supervisor

O'Regan, Bernadette



Other Funding information




Department or School

  • Chemical Sciences

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