EU's Green Deal heaps pressure on Ireland's offshore wind targets     

The world's most ambitious climate change plan sets the bar higher for EU member states
EU's Green Deal heaps pressure on Ireland's offshore wind targets     

European Commissioner for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans. The EU is unveiling sweeping new legislation to help to meet its pledge to cut emissions of gases that cause global warming by 55% during this decade. Picture: AP/Valeria Mongelli

The world's most ambitious climate change plan unveiled by the European Commission will heap pressure on Ireland to meet its plan to generate a huge part of electricity from offshore wind by 2030, while at the same time meeting the demand from data centres, Irish experts have said.     

The EU wants member states to focus on buildings and road transport, which have barely contributed to reducing carbon emissions, and proposes bans on the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 while establishing rules for countries to provide electric and hydrogen fuel recharging points on their road networks.      

The package of proposals, known as Fit for 55 or the European Green Deal, sets the bar higher for many member states, including Ireland.       

Adding pressure on Ireland as an island is the proposal that shipping would be included in Europe's carbon trading system for the first time, while jet fuel emissions by aviation comes under increased scrutiny. 

The European Commission, at the same time, plans to erect the world's first carbon border tariff, which would impose emission costs on imports of goods including steel, cement, and aluminium. 

Under the Green Deal, the EU has raised its renewable targets to 40% by 2030, and sets aim at legally binding targets to reduce net EU emissions by 55% by 2030, from 1990 levels, and eliminate them by 2050.

Ireland's 2030 target

Ireland has already set a 2030 target for renewables to meet 70% of electricity demand but experts here have long warned that securing the goal inordinately relies on building out a handful of massive offshore windfarms down the east coast. 

Market auctions for renewables will need to progress smoothly for construction to get underway.    

"Offshore is a key part of meeting Ireland's targets," said Cathal Ryan, a consultant at Cornwall Insight.

"If there are no new developments in [offshore] renewable energy it will be near impossible for us to reach the 2030 target," said Mr Ryan. 

He said the Government's own pledge to promote electric cars by 2030 also looks difficult to achieve and Ireland has other challenges in transport because it does not have an extensive train network compared with other countries that could be easily be electrified. 

The growth of data centres will also continue to increase demand for new renewable electricity, Mr Ryan added.   

Fergal O'Brien, director of policy and public affairs at business group Ibec, said the EU proposals were "the business end" of the EU's bid to cut emissions.       

For the EU to increase its target, increasing the renewables target to 40% by 2030 "is ambitious but achievable", said Ignacio Galán, chairman and CEO of Iberdrola, which develops renewable energy. 

"It will be important for every country to look at their processes for planning and permitting to ensure projects can be delivered in the necessary time scales," he said. 

On transport, the European Green Deal plans to set new emission controls for cars and vans by 2030; proposes "mandatory targets" on airlines to use new sustainable fuels; plans to encourage the development of zero-emitting marine fuels; and proposes a system in which the EU will set carbon emissions on transport and heating oils.

To fend off concerns that new levies could drive up costs for households, the European Commission proposes that 25% of revenues from permit sales in the new emissions trading system would go into a fund to shield low-income households from the carbon costs. 

Under the Green Deal, the EU has raised its renewable targets to 40% by 2030. File picture: AP/Michael Probst
Under the Green Deal, the EU has raised its renewable targets to 40% by 2030. File picture: AP/Michael Probst

A significant move is the commission's plan to add shipping to the carbon market for the first time, adding pressure on an industry, which had for more than a decade avoided the EU's system of pollution charges, to become greener.

Shipping is seen as one of the trickiest sectors to decarbonise, with industry groups citing a lack of commercially viable technologies.

With about 90% of world trade transported by sea, global shipping accounts for nearly 3% of the world's CO2 emissions.

Under the EU plan, shipping would be added to the EU emissions trading system gradually from 2023 and phased in over a three-year period. 

Ship owners will have to buy permits when their ships pollute or else face possible bans from EU ports. 

In addition to ships sailing within the EU, the proposals will also cover 50% of emissions from international voyages starting and ending in the EU. 

Previous efforts to bring in international aviation threatened a trade war, forcing an EU policy U-turn. 

Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping association, described the proposals as "an ideological revenue raising exercise, which will greatly upset the EU's trading partners".

  • Additional reporting Reuters

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