Carbon budgets to be published to set State’s climate targets

Oireachtas will have a period of four months to approve the budgets

In the wake of Monday’s announcement, the Government is planning to publish a landmark climate action plan on November 3rd which will set out emissions for each sector. Photograph: iStock

In the wake of Monday’s announcement, the Government is planning to publish a landmark climate action plan on November 3rd which will set out emissions for each sector. Photograph: iStock

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The State’s first statutory carbon budgets are expected to be published on Monday following a planned meeting of the independent Climate Change Advisory Council.

The two carbon budgets will cover the period between 2021 and 2025 and then 2026 to 2030. The council is expected to sign off on the overall ceiling on climate emissions and this will go to Government before moving on to the Oireachtas.

The Oireachtas will have a period of four months to approve the budgets. The Government is planning to go ahead with the publication of a landmark climate action plan on November 3rd, which will set out emissions for each sector and exactly what needs to be done in order to meet the country’s climate targets.

It comes as the Government considers a contingency plan in the event of energy shortages this winter.

Data centres and large energy users would be the first to go off the national electricity grid in the event of power shortages, while hospitals and private homes would be the last to face outages.

Government sources said its contingency plan would see an effective hierarchy put in place which would prioritise private homes and healthcare settings.

A source said “pretty much everything would have to go wrong” for a situation to materialise where homes were faced with power cuts. Under the hierarchy, large energy users would be the first to be asked to switch to their generators and go off the national grid. After that, “non-critical” users would be next to come off the grid, and this would include examples such as cement factories.

“At the very back of the queue, and it will never come to this, are hospitals and then private homes are close in beside them,” the source said.

Power cuts

Ministers on the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change were briefed last week on power cut threats and were told that power cuts in the family home could not be ruled out. There was a boost this weekend, however, after Eirgrid confirmed that the Huntstown power station in Dublin is back in operation and is feeding electricity into the national grid. This could add 7-8 per cent capacity to the grid. It is also expected that the Whitegate generator in Cork will be back in action next month.

On the looming climate budgets, Green Party Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett said she believed the targets would be achievable but admitted it was a concern that some of the targets could be back-loaded towards the end of the decade.

“We are looking to introduce system change in agriculture, we really have to wean ourselves off fossil fuel across the board,” she told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics.

Methane

Asked about an increase in dairy cow numbers of 45 per cent, and the issue posed by methane, Ms Hackett said such a level of growth in the dairy herd was not sustainable.

“I think there is widespread acceptance that we can’t continue to expand the dairy herd.” She said even keeping it at current levels “would have to be questionable”.

“That absolutely has to be looked at.”

Speaking in the Dáil last Thursday, the Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan said the new climate plans will be “transformative beyond compare because the 50 pre cent reduction in emissions requires us to completely change our energy system, transport system, land use and agricultural system and industrial systems for the better. We can and will do this.”

“A huge amount of work has been done. We will have it in time to go to Cop26 with a draft climate action plan from Ireland to give it a sense of where we are going to proceed.

“However, the real challenge now will be implementing it at the speed and scale that are necessary to meet the correct calls of concern from the climate strikers.”