Carbon emissions policy inadequate, climate plan draft says

Climate ambitions ‘will need to be stepped up’, Minister says

Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton said he was working with colleagues across government to develop climate-action initiatives. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton said he was working with colleagues across government to develop climate-action initiatives. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Current Government policies will not deliver the kind of carbon emissions reductions the Republic has committed to and will result in significant “compliance costs”, the first draft of the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) indicates.

The scale of the task facing Ireland in trying to decarbonise over the coming decade is spelled out in the report, published by Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton on Wednesday.  It has been approved by the Cabinet and will be submitted to the European Commission. A final plan has to be submitted by end of 2019.

An “all-of-government climate action plan”, with a central ambition to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change, is due for publication in February. On this, Mr Bruton said he was working with colleagues across government to develop initiatives across residential, enterprise, transport, waste and the public service.

Setting a trajectory of rising carbon taxes would be addressed separately, he said, adding that he hoped the Oireachtas Climate Action Committee would be the platform for agreeing cross-party consensus on the approach.

“The purpose of the NECP is to chart a sustainable path for Ireland in a decade when it is projected that the number of households will grow by 380,000 and GDP by 30 per cent,” he said.

National Development Plan

The draft, 291-page NECP sets out the impact of National Development Plan, including a reduction of 22 million tonnes in CO2; “one third of the emissions reduction we need to achieve”.

Renewable energy will rise from 30 per cent to “at least 55 per cent” by 2030 with the help of offshore wind, solar and biomass. Coal and peat will be removed from electricity generation, almost halving emissions from the electricity sector, while electric vehicles will build to about 20 per cent of the national fleet.

Energy improvements in newly-built homes and energy refits in existing homes will mean 40 to 50 per cent of homes will have high-build energy rating. And 170,000 homes will be supported to switch out of oil-fired boilers to heat pumps and solar panels.

However, all the measures were not enough “and ambition will need to be stepped up in all these areas and many others besides”, Mr Bruton admitted.

The plan models scenarios up to 2030 including where the price of oil is low and high, and impacts on energy demand and carbon emissions with “existing policy measures” and “additional measures” in coming years. In one scenario, the NECP confirms total carbon emissions continue to rise out to 2029 – most European Union member states are already reducing emissions.

There are significantly greater emissions in the low-oil-price scenarios because it leads to greater energy demand “and provides a more challenging environment in which to increase energy efficiency and renewable-energy penetration, as the monetary incentive to diversify away from fossil fuels is weaker than at times of high prices”.

Oisín Coghlan, director of Friends of the Earth, said the draft NECP “is not yet the ‘revolution’ Minister Bruton has promised” but welcomed his honesty that this is the case.

The Minister had acknowledged his action plan would contain “additional measures to cut pollution in all sectors of the economy and society, and close Ireland’s emissions gap”. It should be “at least as strong as the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations, and have as many teeth as the action plan for jobs, to ensure all departments actually deliver on their commitments”, he said.

Christian Aid called for an ambitious revision for the next draft in line with the Minister’s recent promise of “huge changes”. Its policy and advocacy advisor, Jennifer Higgins, said: “Becoming a leader seems out of touch for Ireland at this stage. Instead let’s have real policy change, which will put us in line to actually try and achieve our targets.”