Climate council calls for change to draft plan

The State climate change watchdog says the Government’s draft plan for reducing carbon emissions lacks substance, detail and analysis about how the objectives are to be achieved.

John FitzGerald, chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council, says there must be “substantial changes” in the final version of the National Mitigation Plan due for publication in June.

However, Prof Fitzgerald he warns that delays that mean the draft version was only published 12 days ago will limit the council’s ability to offer useful advice for the final document.

The long overdue plan — the first climate action plan in 10 years — is meant to map the way for Ireland to drastically reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and cut the associated carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, as required by the EU.

Prof FitzGerald signalled the council’s concerns about it in a letter to Minister for Communications, Climate, and the Environment Denis Naughten on March 7, a week before the draft version was published.

He wrote in anticipation that the document would fall short of what was required to make clear the steps that must be taken by industry, transport, farming and the domestic sectors.

He said at the weekend that nothing in the draft subsequently published did anything to allay the council’s concerns.

In the letter, Prof FitzGerald had written that the council wanted the plan to “address the achievement of the 2050 national transition objective in a substantive manner”.

“The Council would expect to see further and more detailed analysis of policies,” he wrote, adding that this would require “analysis of costs and benefits of historic, current and planned policies; analysis of barriers to implementation; and analysis of projections for how far away Ireland is from meeting agreed emissions targets as a result of current and new actions under the National Mitigation Plan.”

Since seeing the draft, he was not reassured.

“They did not deal with the issues which we raised in terms of them showing a path to 2050 so the points, I’m afraid, have not been addressed,” he said.

Prof FitzGerald added that the council had previously made the same points in their first annual report published last November.

“Then we reiterated it in the letter [of March 7] more clearly and I’m afraid there’s still a long way to go,” said Prof FitzGerald.

The letter also referred to the delays in publishing the plan.

“These delays limit the time available for the council to consider the draft National Mitigation Plan and, therefore, to provide meaningful advice to you as Minister with responsibility for the Plan, and to other Ministers who are responsible for key sectoral mitigation plans,” he said.

The draft plan is out for public consultation until the end of next month and there is a statutory obligation to finalise it by mid-June.

“Our concern in terms of timing is that for us to provide good comments on the National Mitigation Plan we need quite some time to do research because our comments will be based on evidence rather than back of the envelope calculations,” said Prof FitzGerald.

Mr Naughten acknowledged receipt of the letter last Friday but his department did not comment on its contents. 

The Climate Change Advisory Council, which comprises 11 academics and other experts, was set up in 2015.


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