Sustainable Development

The Challenge

Ireland is committed to the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and working to implement the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a global agreement to end poverty, to protect the planet and to work towards peace and prosperity for all.

Graphic of seventeen sustainable development goals
Nations and organisations globally have signed up to the goals and have integrated their objectives into their strategic purpose. Some of the goals that are directly relevant to the transport sector, include:

  • SDG No. 11: Sustainable cities and communities
  • SDG12: Responsible consumption and production
  • SDG13: Climate action
  • SDG 15: Life on land

In particular, CIÉ views the development of sustainable cities and communities as pivotal to sustainable development for Ireland. As highlighted by NESC in its report, “Transport-Orientated Development: Assessing the Opportunity for Ireland”, it is recognised that with increased urbanisation globally ‘sustainable development cannot be achieved without significantly transforming the way we build and manage our urban spaces’ (UNDP, undated).  

Past unsustainable development and urban sprawl has led to an over dependency on car usage in Ireland. Cognisant of the integral role of public transport in the development of affordable housing infrastructure, thriving communities and urban spaces and supporting a vibrant economy, CIÉ is working with its customers, partners and stakeholders to ensure that the development of economic, spatial and urban development is underpinned by an effective and sustainable transport service.


CIÉ will focus on supporting the Government’s commitment to achieving the sustainable development goals and plans to embed the SDGs into its corporate strategy. CIÉ consider that prioritising the SDGs will underpin our commitment to implementing the Climate Action Plan and to driving transport orientated development within the cities and regions of Ireland.


What CIÉ are doing

SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities

In addition to the direct public transport initiatives involving CIÉ, as one of Ireland’s largest land owners, we approach all of our property development opportunities by adopting the principles behind Transport Orientated Developmentt - urban development that seeks to maximise the provision of housing, employment, public services and leisure space in close proximity to frequent, high-quality transport services. It is a form of development that is friendlier to public transport users, cyclists and pedestrians, and seeks to convert car trips to public and active transport trips. This in turn improves mobility and environmental conditions and delivers more efficient and sustainable urban development.  This approach puts communities at the centre of transport and urban development and underpins a dynamic local economy.

Further details around Transport Orientated Development are also available from a report published in 2018 by the National Economic and Social Council. Accessing the opportunity of Ireland

SDG 12 & 15: Life on land and responsible consumption and production

CIÉ has prioritised its action on protection of our natural environment and ensuring our service provision is sympathetic to our environment and biodiversity.

Significant progress has been made to deliver on these commitments, including:

Investing in natural capital

Delivering public transport services has implications for Ireland’s environment and biodiversity. CIÉ works to minimise and protect the environment not only by adhering to the highest legislative standards, but also by investing in Ireland’s natural capital. Irish Rail is working to protect and enhance the coexistence of biodiversity and rail and is actively working on a number of biodiversity initiatives which include:

  • Partnering with the All Ireland Pollinator Plan which is being implemented by the National Biodiversity Data Centre. This focuses on reducing the use of herbicides, retention of existing pollinator friendly habitat and partnerships with local community groups to enhance pollinator friendly planting schemes in local train stations.

  • Progressing a feasibility study for a native planting schemes within suitable CIÉ owned lands.  Irish Rail is consulting with Woodlands Ireland to develop more sustainable management practices.

  • Developing a more sustainable practice of hedge cutting and tree felling to minimise the impact on flora and fauna, particularly during nesting season

Environmental protection

CIÉ is committed to adhering to the highest standards for environmental protection, in particular, Irish Rail has worked to achieve and maintain its certification of the international ISO standards for Environmental Management (ISO 40001:2015 and ISO 9001:2015). Certification to these standards ensures that best practice environmental management is embedded in the day-to-day operation of the railway. Irish Rail works to ensure that its waste management is to the highest standards and has introduced procedures in waste management within its operations in order to minimise the generation of waste and to ensure waste types are segregated and disposed appropriately.  


Environmental noise, is an environmental concern throughout Europe and is particularly relevant for rail. Irish Rail is required to comply with the Environmental Noise Regulations 2006, (S.I. No. 140 of 2006, transposing European Council Directive 2002/49/EC). Irish Rail works to minimise noise pollution with strategic noise mapping. Importantly Irish Rail has focussed on equipping the train fleet with noise minimising technology and active noise management for construction sites in rail expansion.

Sustainable procurement

Procurement is a mechanism with which to integrate a sustainable approach throughout the economy. The Government has recently launched its Guidance on green procurement (GPP) which promotes environmental and social considerations in public procurement with specific regard to the Climate Action Plan 2019. Its aims are to drive efforts to become a more resource-efficient and circular economy. It can help stimulate a critical mass of demand for more sustainable goods and services which otherwise would be difficult to get onto the market. GPP is therefore a strong stimulus for eco-innovation.  CIÉ will work to adopt the guidance as part of its procurement processes and to support the circular economy.

SDG 13 - Climate Action and Resilience

Climate resilience relates to the ability of a system to absorb stresses and maintain its function during periods of extreme weather. Transport infrastructure is vulnerable to the effects of climate change and work to ensure that the rail infrastructure is protected from natural processes such as erosion, flooding and increasingly extreme weather cycles, is central to Irish Rails sustainability strategy and ensures that CIÉ is acutely aware of the impacts of climate change. Adapting to the impacts of climate related events is critical to ensuring the longevity of assets and to planning for adaptation and resilience of our network.  To this end, Irish Rail undertake planning and design and modelling of assets to ensure resilience and stress testing. Likewise we work to minimise our climate vulnerability and to protect our natural capital with the management and protection of vulnerable coastal areas.