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Ireland 'completely off course' to achieve climate change targets

Ireland remains "completely off course" to achieve its 2020 and 2030 climate change targets, the Climate Change Advisory Council has warned.

Ireland 'completely off course' to achieve climate change targets

Ireland remains "completely off course" to achieve its 2020 and 2030 climate change targets, the Climate Change Advisory Council has warned.

The 2020 target would be widely missed but it was still possible to make significant changes and reach the 2030 target.

The country is already experiencing the impacts of climate change and the council believes adaptation is essential because of the effects of continuing global greenhouse gas emissions.

Council chair Prof John Fitzgerald said that despite extreme weather events that have exposed vulnerabilities, awareness of the need for adaptation remained low.

“Adaptation is not only a matter for the Government but will require a response by households and the business sector,” said Prof Fitzgerald, when he launched the independent body's 2019 annual review.

Key areas not addressed in the development of sectoral adaptation plans include coastal areas, housing and planning.

It was too late to achieve the 2020 climate change target but if urgent action was taken it was possible to reach the 2030 target.

“The Government's Climate Action Plan 2019 published in May is major progress but it requires actual measures to make it happen,” he said.

Unless we introduce a carbon tax, start retrofitting homes, start making changes in agriculture, start rolling out the infrastructure for electric cars, we're just not going to get there by 2030.

The Government could lead by example by investing in local authority buildings and housing.

“This would provide certainty to businesses that there is a long-term commitment to retrofitting Ireland's housing stock,” said Prof Fitzgerald.

The council recommends that the carbon tax increase to €35 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent in Budget 2020, increasing to at least €80 per tonne by 2030.

It is also recommending policies that would increase the security of farm incomes and reduce emissions by more than is currently envisaged in the Climate Action Plan.

Prof Fitzgerald said Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, had laid out a road map and many of the measures would reduce costs for agriculture and increase incomes, such as changing fertiliser use.

The council want farmers to be helped move from beef and use their land for other purposes.

Not only would farmers be better off with a more secure income they would substantially reduce methane emissions – a damaging greenhouse gas.

In recent years the expansion of the national dairy herd has been the major contributor to increases in agricultural emissions.

The council recommends that the Government publish the detailed plan to achieve its commitment to end the burning of coal at Moneypoint by 2025.

It also recommends the ending of peat-fired electricity generation in 2020.

Environment Minister Richard Bruton admitted that Ireland has been "lacking" in its fight against climate change, but the country "cannot countenance" another failure to meet targets.

Speaking at the Mac Gill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal, he said: "Ireland has not been lacking in ambition, but in delivery.

"There has been no roadmap, no coherent strategy that would in fact deliver on the commitments made. We cannot countenance another such failure."

He said the climate action plan will ensure the country reaches its 2030 targets, and puts Ireland "on a trajectory" to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

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