Government to publish climate action plan amid emissions concerns

Long-awaited strategy to focus on agriculture, transport and construction

 Minister for   Climate Action  Denis Naughten: The national mitigation plan, the first in five years, will set out how the Government intends to curb harmful gas emissions. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Climate Action Denis Naughten: The national mitigation plan, the first in five years, will set out how the Government intends to curb harmful gas emissions. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The Government will publish a draft of its long-awaited climate action plan today amid concern the State is lagging behind its European peers in tackling the issue.

The national mitigation plan, the first in five years, will set out how the Government intends to curb harmful gas emissions, which are now rising in all sectors of the economy courtesy of a stronger-than-expected recovery.

The strategy will almost certainly come too late to avert a breach of the State’s 2020 emissions target, with the Environmental Protection Agency predicting emissions then will be 6-11 per cent below 2005 levels – well short of the 20 per cent target.

Minister for Climate Action Denis Naughten claims the 2020 target was “inappropriate” as it failed to take account of the State’s disproportionately large agricultural sector. He also blames the recent uptick in emissions on a “constrained investment capacity” linked to the financial crisis.

Most of the emissions that the Government is tasked with reducing come from agriculture, transport and construction, which together account for 73 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions here.

Environmentalists want the Government’s strategy to spell out more precisely how each of the sectors is going to contribute to the State’s national targets.

On transport, there is now a strong push in Europe to make electric vehicles more affordable while introducing restrictions on petrol and diesel vehicles.

Nearly 50 per cent of new cars being sold in Norway are now electric or hybrid whereas in Ireland just 239 electric cars have been sold this year, out of a new car market of 59,332. That equates to just 0.4 per cent. When hybrids are added, the market share is still only 4 per cent.

Refused funding

Dublin Bus was recently refused funding even to trial cleaner vehicles at a time when, in Paris, the equivalent company has already begun the process of switching its entire fleet to electric vehicles.

Ireland’s capital investment programme is also heavily skewed towards road building rather than public transport, which will be difficult to sustain in the transition to a low carbon economy.

On the new 2030 targets, Ireland managed to secure a more lenient target of reducing emissions by 30 per cent relative to the 2005 baseline, primarily because of the agricultural sector which is Ireland’s single largest emissions producer .

However, environmentalists question why so many marginal, loss-making beef enterprises here continue to be subsidised over more sustainable farming practices.

“If the plan is as weak as Minister Naughten’s recent briefing note it will confirm Ireland’s reputation as a climate delinquent,” Friends of the Earth director Oisín Coghlan said.