Ireland drops six places in climate performance index due to ‘policy implementation failures’

Eamon Ryan says State must speed up implementation of climate policies ‘like never before’

Ireland remains a low performer in the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), dropping six places this year to 43rd among 63 countries due to policy implementation failures.

The index findings note the importance of the State’s legally binding five-year carbon budgets and the Government-set sectoral emissions ceilings in 2022. However, the CCPI report finds Irish policy implementation is falling far short of meeting these budgets and ceilings.

The 2024 rankings, compiled in consultation with experts in each country, were released on Friday at Cop28. The index analyses and compares climate actions and policies across 63 countries, including the EU as a whole, which together account for 90 per cent of global emissions. It assesses greenhouse emissions, renewable energy, energy use and climate policy.

The index, which is compiled by Germanwatch, NewClimate Institute and Climate Action Network, is regarded as the most reliable indicator of countries’ response to the climate crisis, and has been published yearly since 2005. It has also played a leading role in setting out progress on implementing the Paris Agreement.


“The CCPI recognises the progress that Ireland has made on certain policies, including in relation to renewables development and introduction of carbon budgets. However, Ireland remains a low-performer given its high-level of polluting emissions and given weak implementation of climate policies,” said Jerry MacEvilly, head of policy with Friends of the Earth.

“This CCPI result again points to the fact that Government is delivering incremental policy change when our legal obligations require an urgent transformation. As the elections approach, we need leadership, courage and a clear commitment to fossil fuel phase out, now more than ever.”

While Ireland’s ranking was disappointing, findings noted the importance of its carbon budgets and sectoral emissions ceilings set in 2022.

“It is also good that our wind and solar progress is seen positively,” Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan said.

“The ship is turning in Ireland. Our emissions came down by nearly 2 per cent in 2022 but that’s nowhere near enough and nowhere near fast enough. Our coal use has halved in 2023 in our electricity sector, fertiliser is down by 27 per cent in two years as farmers switch to more accurate and ecologically better grasses, our retrofit is booming – doubling this year – and we’ve contracted more renewables in the last 12 months than any other government.

“We have the policies, we have the vision but we now we have to scale up and speed up our implementation and delivery of these policies like never before,” Mr Ryan said.

An Taisce said Ireland’s poor ranking underlined that it needs to meet its five-year carbon budgets as they were agreed by the Oireachtas as legally binding, fair share national contributions to meeting the Paris Agreement. “They require achievement of early, deep, and sustained cuts in demand for fossil fuel use – in heating, transport, and electricity – and substantial reductions in nitrogen inputs to animal agriculture from feed and fertiliser. But this is not happening,” its spokesman Prof John Sweeney said.

The summary of CCPI results for Ireland strongly criticises the lack of a long-term strategy for phasing out fossil fuel infrastructure; a failure to limit agricultural emissions (especially methane from cattle and sheep); and a “highly questionable” roll-out of unsustainable biomethane production from purpose-grown grass silage.

On the positive side, CCPI experts welcomed Ireland’s medium-term offshore wind and solar plans. This year, a very competitive wind auction took place and support for solar photovoltaic (PV) technology was increased, though experts criticised the slow rate of renewables auctions relative to the declared ambition.

“Overall, the stark message from the new CCPI 2024 ranking is that Ireland is failing to implement the policies and measures needed to align with our fair share of climate action. As analysis from An Taisce has again recently shown, the gap between the actual/projected emissions and the carbon budgets is rapidly widening. Urgent action is required to close this implementation gap,” Prof Sweeney said.

Government needs to recognise and make it clear to the public that climate policy is falling far short of what is required, Prof Sweeney added. Emissions and energy intensive activities – such as SUVs, air travel, dairy farming, and data centres now require direct regulatory intervention to meet applied quota limits, he said.

“Urgency requires effective direction. Appeals to techno-fixes, efficiency measures, and voluntary efforts are no longer enough. Honesty about the escalating urgency required for climate action continues to be absent from public debate and media. This needs to change otherwise there is little societal understanding of what is required.”

The CCPI index shows other countries are doing far more to implement fair and effective climate action to achieve a resilient transition aligned with the Paris Agreement temperature goal of 1.5 degrees.

Six years ago, the Taoiseach accepted that Ireland was a laggard in climate action. Gauged by the carbon budgets and the CCPI assessment, Ireland’s action remains grossly inadequate to meet our international commitments. Morally and legally, we are obligated to do much better.”

While it was disappointing Ireland had dropped in the CCPI rankings this year, it was not surprising, said Dr Cara Augustenborg, an environmental policy specialist based in University College Dublin and member of the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC).

“Of the 63 countries evaluated, more than half have dropped in the rankings compared to last year with just 18 moving up in the rankings,” Dr Augustenborg said. “Even the highest ranked country, Denmark, suffers from a similar problem to Ireland in failing to achieve its ambitious climate action targets.”

The report confirms the findings of both Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency and the CCAC, Dr Augustenborg said, adding: “We are not achieving our climate action plans fast enough to meet our targets and achieve our legislated carbon budgets.”

For all countries at Cop28, including Ireland, faster implementation of existing commitments was an urgent problem, said Dr Augustenborg.

“If we fail to do what we have already committed to, there is little hope of staying within the safe limits of Earth’s climate system. The value of the CCPI is in holding more than 60 countries accountable in reducing their emissions at a pace which aligns with the science of climate change,” she said.

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Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times