Cutting emissions ‘a significant challenge’ for Ireland

Ireland is facing a significant challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a visiting group of climate change experts has been told.

Minister of state at the Department of the Environment, Paudie Coffey, told a working group of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the country was committed to playing its part in the global effort to cut carbon emissions.

“Ireland has specific vulnerabilities, including threats to coastal assets due to rising sea levels, increased and more intense precipitation with consequent flooding risks, and changes in storm tracks,” he said.

“In combination these will result in social and economic costs as well as the loss of ecologically and culturally significant sites.”

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However, he said the EU target of a 40% domestic cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels was demanding. “We know that we face a significant challenge,” he said.

“All member states will participate in this effort, and while it is not clear at this stage what Ireland’s contribution to target will be, it will likely be a significant challenge for Ireland given our relatively distinct greenhouse gas emission profile.

“Emissions from the agriculture sector made up over 32% of our greenhouse gas emissions in 2013, with energy and transport contributing just over 19% each.

“We are aiming to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 80%, compared to 1990 levels, by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors and are aiming for a carbon neutral approach in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, while at the same time ensuring that our capacity for sustainable food production is not compromised,” he said.

Mr Coffey made his comments as 60 scientists and officials arrived in Dublin for a three-day meeting of the IPCC’s working group on the implications of climate change for food security and agriculture.

The group is meeting behind closed doors to assess the latest scientific research from around the world and will draw conclusions and make recommendations which will inform debate when world leaders gather in Paris later this year for the COP21 summit to attempt to agree a new legally-binding agreement to jointly address climate change.

Laura Burke, director general of the Environmental Protection Agency which is hosting the working group, said food security presented a particular challenge as food production could be both a contributor to climate change and a victim of it.

“The EPA recognises that targeted scientific research and innovation is needed to address this challenge. Ireland needs to invest to find solutions for own particular set of circumstances and these solutions can also provide global opportunities,” she said.

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