Climate campaigners have hit out at a lack of any obligation to meet ambitious carbon targets set out in a new Climate Action Bill.
The Government's Climate Action Bill puts into law a commitment for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and also sets up a five-year carbon budgeting system. However, there are no penalties if these targets are missed.
The Bill, which was launched by the three Government leaders does also not mention a programme for government commitment to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 or a plan to stop the importation of used fossil-fuel vehicles from that time.
However, a spokesperson said the Government remains committed to such a ban.
The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition said the new Bill greatly improves 2015 law but "substantial weaknesses" remain and must be fixed by politicians.
"The Government isn't obliged to achieve the new 2050 target, the five-year targets don't have to be in line with the 2050 target, and the plans don't actually have to deliver on the short-term targets. So there are good elements but there is a lot more to do," said Oisín Coghlan, Coordinator of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition.
Dr Hannah Daly a lecturer in sustainable energy at UCC also raised concerns and said the Bill "sets out legally-binding carbon budgets but does not set forth what will happen if the budgets are not met, and therefore the question of accountability".
She said the Climate Bill is a “hugely significant step” that would put Ireland among only a handful of countries legislating for a climate-neutral economy by 2050.
However, she said the 2030 target to halve emissions in a decade is not included in the Bill and it will now be up to the Climate Change Advisory Council to set this ambition.
The powers of the Council will be strengthened under the Bill to allow them to propose appropriate carbon budgets to the minister.
"The draft Bill signals a significant step-up in ambition, but signals are not enough,” Ms Daly said.
She said the Bill is also lacking a "strong signal" around the need to tackle agriculture emissions.
Launching the Bill, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said dramatically reducing carbon emissions and protecting biodiversity must be the legacy of this Government.
“No one can doubt the fact that action on climate will lead to many difficult decisions. Moving away from how we do things today, adopting new practices and eliminating damaging activities,” he said.
Green party leader Eamon Ryan described the Bill as a "radical departure" and committed to having it passed through the Dáil by December 15.
"We will change how we heat our homes, generate power, move around our country, grow our food, and run our businesses. It sends a clear signal to every sector that it must reshape its activities to reduce emissions," he said.
Meanwhile, the Green Party has seen its support decimated since entering government according to a newPoll. That shows its support has fallen eight points to just 4% since the last poll conducted in June before the party formed the coalition with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.