Ireland's emissions cuts fall short of the legally-required 51%

Government hopes to make up the five-megatonne shortfall through new technologies and the change of land use
Ireland's emissions cuts fall short of the legally-required 51%

Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity Pippa Hackett speaking at the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings launch with (left to right) fellow junior minister Martin Heydon and ministers for Agriculture and Environment, Charlie McConalogue and Eamon Ryan respectively. Picture: Conor Ó Mearáin/Collins

Greenhouse gas reduction targets set down by the Government fall short of the 51% cut required by 2030 under the law.


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The targets were announced by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue following talks on how much farmers should have to contribute to climate-change measures.

Mr Ryan had stressed the need for all sectors to meet the upper end of the bands set down in the Climate Act last year, but transport is the only area which has been asked to reduce its emissions by the top projection of 50%.

No target has been agreed in the area of land use, land use change, and forestry, with this decision kicked down the road for another 18 months to allow for the completion of the land-use strategy. This will assess the latest developments in scientific knowledge relating to the sector’s emissions.

The electricity sector will be asked to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2030, considerably less than the upper target of 81% set down under the Climate Act.

It means the targets do not equate to the legally binding 51% reduction requirement and are five megatonnes short of the amount needed, which the Government hopes can be found through change of land use and new technologies. 

Who has to cut what

Cabinet remotely signed off on the memo, drafted after talks between the three coalition parties, and detailed the following specific targets:

  • Electricity: 75%. From 10.5 MtCO2eq (2018) to 3 MtCO2eq (2030);
  • Transport: 50%. From 12 MtCO2eq (2018) to 6 MtCO2eq (2030);
  • Buildings (commercial and public) 45%. From 2 MtCO2eq (2018) to 1 MtCO2eq (2030);
  • Residential buildings 40%. From 7 MtCO2eq (2018) to 4 MtCO2eq (2030);
  • Industry: 35%. From 7 MtCO2eq (2018) to 4 MtCO2eq (2030);
  • Agriculture: 25%. From 23 MtCO2eq (2018) to 17.25 MtCO2eq (2030);
  • Other measures to be decided: 50%. From 2 MtCO2eq (2018) to 1 MtCO2eq (2030).

The most contentious sector had been agriculture, and Mr McConalogue last night stressed that changes will be voluntary and will allow farmers to play their part. There will be generous financial incentives, with an additional financial package in Budget 2023.

Farmers will receive significant grants to install solar PV panels on sheds and will be encouraged to move to anaerobic digestion, which could provide an additional source of income.

The Government last night faced criticism over the targets, with farm groups reacting with dismay to the target of 25% which has been now been set for agriculture.

Climate action groups and opposition parties also slammed the plan, claiming the climbdown from the higher 30% limit for agriculture shows the coalition is not capable of making the tough decisions required to combat climate change.

The agriculture sector is expected to cut back emissions by 25%. 
The agriculture sector is expected to cut back emissions by 25%. 

However, Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen criticised the fact that these measures will both be counted as energy reductions and will not go towards the 25% cut needed from agriculture.

Social Democrats climate spokeswoman Jennifer Whitmore said the 25% cut in carbon emissions for agriculture represents “a shocking failure” by Government to listen to the science.

“This deal clearly demonstrates Government are not prepared to, or capable of, making the tough decisions required to deal with climate change,” she said.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said it was an “enormous blow to the climate goals and environmental movement in this country” and “represented a victory by big agri-food business interests who have profited enormously from the current model”.

ICMSA president Pat McCormack said it was a “sell-out” of the family farm model. IFA president Tim Cullinan said the deal was “all about the survival of the Government rather than survival of rural Ireland”.

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