Ireland ‘completely off course’ in tackling climate change

The country is “completely off course” in its efforts to meet climate change goals, and the gulf between these targets and Ireland’s carbon emissions is growing year on year, according to a scathing report by the State’s climate change watchdog.

Ireland ‘completely off course’ in tackling climate change

The Climate Change Advisory Council has produced its second annual review on Ireland’s efforts to battle climate change. It warned that the Government “has not provided a pathway for the decarbonisation of the economy and society by 2050”.

It advised that “major new initiatives are required if Ireland is to meet its objectives on climate change”.

Climate Minister Denis Naughten admitted the report’s findings are “deeply disappointing”, and blamed the growing economy for country’s shortcomings.

Among its recommendations, the council advises that the excise tax on diesel should be raised to match that on petrol, and that the next budget should see an increase in the carbon tax in Ireland to €30 per tonne, rising to €80 per tonne by 2030.

“Following on from last year’s annual review, Ireland is now in an even worse position,” said council chair Professor John FitzGerald.

“Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions increased again in 2016, with the projections of emissions to 2035 showing that we are completely off course in addressing the challenge of climate change.

“Instead of achieving the required 1m-tonne-per-annum reduction in carbon dioxide emissions consistent with the National Policy Position, Ireland is currently increasing emissions at a rate of 2m tonnes per year.”

“We need immediate and urgent action to put us back onto a pathway to achieve transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient, and sustainable economy and society.”

Mr FitzGerald said there is an opportunity to address the country’s reliance on fossil fuels in our economy, and encourage innovation and change of behaviour in businesses and households towards greener and more efficient energy solutions.

While the council said Ireland is not on track to meet its 2020 or 2030 targets, Mr Naughten said the Government will do what it can to meet the latter goal.

“I acknowledge and share the council’s frustration with the lack of progress towards Ireland’s climate change targets for 2020. In this respect, the latest projections of greenhouse gas emissions, published by the EPA in May 2018, are deeply disappointing,” he said.

“The recent pace of economic growth, and the consequent increases in emissions from the agriculture and transport sectors in particular, have contributed significantly to these projections.

“The projected shortfall to our targets is further exacerbated by both the constrained investment capacity over the past decade due to the economic crisis, and the extremely challenging nature of the target itself.”

“The Government is doing everything it can to ensure that we, at an absolute minimum, meet our 2030 target.”

Stop Climate Chaos, a civil society coalition, described the council’s report as “disappointing but not surprising”.

“The continued support for peat burning, renewed vigour for offshore oil and gas exploration, and long delays in support for solar power and community participation in renewable energy generation point to an alarming policy incoherence and a knowing indecision on the part of Government,” said Kate Ruddock, a spokesperson for the groups.

“The Citizens’ Assembly put forward practical proposals on climate action to remedy this situation.

“The people of Ireland do not want to be known as the ‘climate laggards’ of Europe and the Government must immediately take proactive steps to change this disturbing status quo.”

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