Additional reporting by Aoife Moore
The Gardai are examining using hybrid cars to replace the ministerial fleet in a bid to reduce carbon emissions, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.
Speaking at the publication of the Government's Climate Action Plan progress report, Mr Varadkar accepted that too many ministers are driving so-called “dirty diesel” cars, but said people overtime should migrate over to more environmentally-friendly vehicles.
The report came a week after the Environmental Protection Agency said Ireland was lagging behind in climate policy, with 2018 marking the third year in a row the state missed EU emissions budgets. Ireland is well off track to meet 2020 and 2030 targets.
Leo Varadkar, flanked by a number of cabinet ministers, including Minister for Health Simon Harris, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy, and Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief Kevin Boxer Moran, launched the report.
"No sector, business, or home will be untouched," The Taoiseach said.
"This is a plan that was only produced last June, and now we need to carry that through, and I think the carbon tax one was one that was important.
The Climate Action Plan, led by Environment Minister Richard Bruton, sets out actions across every sector which he said will "ensure we meet our 2030 climate commitments, putting us on a trajectory to be net zero emissions by 2050".
Since the plan was published, the Government has listed key milestones such as the new scheme for 1,200 on-street public charge points for electric vehicles, the first Luas tram extension being delivered, and a climate action-focused budget with a commitment to increase the price of carbon to 80 euro per tonne in 2030, with all the proceeds going towards the Government's climate plan.
When it was put to Mr Varadkar that Ireland has little to celebrate in terms of environmental targets, he agreed that the State lags behind in reaching agreed emissions and quotas.
"Our greenhouse gas emissions are down two years in a row, but they need to be falling by 2% or 3% a year and we're nowhere near that, actually the gap is widening as a result of that, so what we need to do is implement the action plan that we've produced," he said.
The Government has also come under criticism for backing a project which would see fracked gas imported to Ireland's first liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the Shannon estuary in north Kerry, despite the Government's commitment to climate, which Mr Varadkar dismissed as people "mixing issues together".
"Everyone accepts or at least the scientific consensus is that we're going to continue to use natural gas as part of our energy mix, probably well into the 2040s if not through to 2050," he said.
"At the moment there are only two ways to get gas into Ireland, from Corrib from the gas field there, that's going to run out in 10-15 years' time, and then the only way to get gas into the country is through the gas pipeline from the UK."