While Ireland is unlikely to meet EU decarbonisation and renewable energy targets for 2020, "an ambitious, but realistic, climate and energy roadmap" is urgently needed to get back on track and meet 2030 targets, according to the Institute of International and European Affairs ( IIEA).
Under EU commitments, Ireland must produce a draft integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) for the period 2021-2030 by the end of 2018, and “provide detailed policy measures to demonstrate it is doing its part to meet EU energy and climate targets”, the IIEA notes in a paper published on Tuesday.
These targets include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent (compared to 1990 levels); achieving 32 per cent use of renewable energy sources and meeting a 32 per cent target in energy efficiency. On agriculture, transport and heat from buildings, a combined 30 per cent reduction on emissions is required by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.
“While this task appears daunting at first glance”, it is also an opportunity to revisit and consolidate Ireland’s energy and climate policy,” it says.
In spite of a tight timeframe and the complexity of the task, extensive public consultation should also be pursued because of the “potentially profound implications for Ireland’s future social and economic development”, it concludes.
Consulting with and engaging the public from an early stage “would create a sense of public ownership and buy-in which is crucial to the implementation of an ambitious energy and climate strategy”, it adds – and should extend into 2019 before the NECP is fully adopted.
This approach could be beneficial “as it highlights areas that may be particularly challenging, but also processes that could make these challenges easier to tackle”, it says. “The public, as well as private sector stakeholders and experts, would also benefit from this framework as it shows the areas where most impact can be had and where advocacy for ambitious policies can be most successful.”
It was not a matter of starting from scratch because of the valuable work of the Citizen's Assembly; the ongoing National Climate Dialogue process under which public meetings are being held around the country, and the way the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action is conducting its business.
While a survey of the main Irish policy documents shows solid building blocks for Ireland's NECP are already present, "a thorough 'stock-take' of existing policy is a vital starting point", it says. This should be followed by a review of "the coherence and ambition of those policies" though this will be complicated by "tight timelines and the uncertain backdrop created by Brexit", it warns in the paper by IIEA energy and climate policy researcher Max Muenchmeyer.
The obligation to produce the NECP is an opportunity to combine the actions of the National Mitigation Plan (NMP) with the measures in the National Development Plan (NDP), it suggests.
While 66 out of 106 actions under the NMP relate to decarbonisation and a significant share of the €22 billion in the NDP is designated for the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient society, “this is not immediately discernible in a breakdown of investment actions”, it points out.
Objectives and measures that need to be set out under the NECP “should take account of the potentially adverse affects of Brexit on the Irish energy sector, particularly with regard to security of supply of gas and electricity interconnection infrastructure”.
At present, that infrastructure is in the form of interconnectors with the UK, but the IIEA notes that building the proposed Celtic Interconnector linking Ireland and France – the first planned electricity connection with mainland Europe – is another significant step in this direction, and will help meet EU2030 targets for enhancing energy security.
The step-up in the deployment of domestic renewable energy sources as outlined in the NDP is of relevance in not only diversifying energy types but in reducing dependency on energy imports – notably fossil fuels. Potential exploitation of another gas field after the depletion of Corrib Gas would also help diversify energy sources and reduce dependency on imports.