The Government's new national development plan envisages a radical overhaul of how the State tackles climate change, allocating €22 billion - one fifth of the entire budget - to a series of measures that will turn Ireland into a low-carbon economy by 2050.
The measures are primarily aimed at transport, agriculture and the built environment, and include a plan to stop burning coal to produce electricity at the ESB’s Moneypoint plant, the State’s single largest carbon emitter, by 2025.
On transport, there will be ban on the purchase of all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, a decade ahead of the UK, while there is also a target of having at least 500,000 electric vehicles - a third of the State’s private transport fleet - on the road by the same date.
To achieve the transformation, additional charging infrastructure to cater for the planned growth has been pledged.
Under the plan, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann will be forbidden from buying anything but electric buses from 2019 in a bid to reduce air pollution in the cities and elsewhere.
Some €4 billion is also to be allocated to retrofitting up to 45,000 homes and schools built prior to 2008 each year from 2021 with more climate-friendly materials, upgrading them to a BER B energy rating, the second highest.
Given the very significant levels of investment required to fund the necessary climate action measures identified in the the plan, a new climate action fund will also be established. The fund will have an initial allocation of €100 million with annual income of at least €50 million thereafter.
To finance the fund and ensure it is sustainable into the future, the Government plans to repurpose part of the existing petroleum products levy of 2 cents per litre that has been in place since 2007.
The plan also puts a 2030 date on the conversion of the State’s peat-burning power plants to more sustainable low-carbon technologies, although this had been flagged previously.
In its report, the Government said that while the most suitable replacement low-carbon technology for the ESB’s Moneypoint plant had yet to be identified, to replace the existing plant with an equal-size plant fired by gas would cost up to €1 billion.
On agriculture, the plan will see the piloting of “climate-smart countryside” projects to establish the feasibility of the home and farm becoming net exporters of electricity through the adaptation of smart metering, smart grids and small-scale renewable technologies such as solar, heat pumps and wind.
“While Ireland clearly faces a very significant task in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, the current profile of which reflects the particular structure of our economy, action can be taken now to position Ireland to harness significant benefits from realising a low-carbon economy,” the report said.
“These include, for example, the creation of sustainable green jobs, sustainable food production, deepening our energy security, and making the environment healthier.
Delaying action will put these potential benefits at risk, undermine the green reputation of exports, compromise our capacity to attract foreign direct investment, and make achieving the transition more costly,” it said.