Cabinet's climate action plan to bypass Cop26 summit pledge on reducing methane

Government plan expected to include methane reductions of about 10%

"We do not believe or accept, as some would have it, that it is too late; that the transition will be too costly; that it is inevitable that we will leave people behind; that someone else should shoulder the load," Martin said in his speech. Video: Cop26

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A pledge to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent, agreed by global leaders at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow and signed by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, will not form part of the Government’s climate action plan which is expected to be published on Thursday.

Instead the plan is understood to include methane reductions of about 10 per cent but with larger reductions in other greenhouse gases to meet Ireland’s target of a 50 per cent reduction by 2030.

This will include reductions in nitrous oxide emissions which like methane emanate from the agriculture sector.

The climate action plan, which will detail the measures to be taken in various sectors to reduce emissions for the rest of the decade, is likely to be signed off at a Cabinet committee meeting on Wednesday and approved by the full Cabinet on Thursday. Sources say that an agreement on agriculture emission reductions – politically the most sensitive part of the plan because of the concerns of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs – has largely been reached between Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan.

It is expected that the reduction in agriculture emissions will be in the range of 22-30 per cent down from 2018 levels.

In total, this means a reduction from 23 MtCO2eq (million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) to 16-18 MtCO2eq. It is expected that half of emission reductions will be achieved through carbon capture and storage.

The emissions reduction from land use changes and afforestation will be not be linked to the agriculture targets but is expected to be of the order of 2.4 MtCO2eq. Some of this, however, will be “borrowed from future savings”, it is understood.

Cop26 pledge

More than 100 countries signed up to the Cop26 pledge led by the European Union and the United States to cut global methane gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

A plan to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030 won the backing of more than 120 countries, accounting for 85 per cent of the world’s forests.

Boris Johnson said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the summit in Glasgow would succeed.

“We’ve got 90 per cent of the world’s economy working towards net zero, up from less than a third when the UK took up the Cop reins – including India,” the British prime minister told a press conference.

Mr Martin addressed the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow on Tuesday afternoon, saying the impact of climate change was already visible and it was intensifying.

He said human actions could still determine the planet’s future but immediate, large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions were essential if global warming is to be kept below 1.5 degrees.

Director of Friends of the Earth Oisín Coghlan described the Taoiseach’s address and related comments to the media on Tuesday as “a step change in political leadership on climate”. Mr Coghlan said: “I’ve never heard a Taoiseach speak so convincingly on the need for climate action.”

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