The Government’s climate action plan “will not deliver the revolution in how we live as promised”, analysis by Ireland’s climate action and environmental groups concludes.
Stop Climate Chaos Coalition and the Environmental Pillar acknowledge the Government’s increased ambition, but warns its commitments fall short of what is required.
The coalition represents 33 civil society organisations campaigning to ensure Ireland plays its part in tackling climate disruption, while the EP represents 26 NGOs.
Their report welcomes proposals for improved governance structures, notably carbon budgets that will legal limit carbon emissions by sector and government department on a five-yearly basis. Critical legislation, however, will need to be in place by next January to ensure political momentum is maintained, it says.
While the decision to enshrine into law a 2050 target of net-zero emissions was positive, “the EUs and Ireland’s 2050 targets are not yet aligned to the Paris climate agreement”, it warns.
‘Lack of commitment’
A key failure is the lack of any real commitment to this scale of emissions reductions over the coming decade, or an acknowledgement of risks associated with a delayed, or slower transition as a result. The plan proposes to reduce emissions by 2 per cent a year up to 2030 and by 7 per cent or more a year thereafter.
“By focusing on the cheapest mitigation options to reach short term targets, the Government runs the risk of delaying investments that would deliver more cost-effective long term reductions, instead over-investing in measures with limited mitigation potential and locking us into carbon-intensive infrastructure”.
At a briefing the groups highlighted where the plan "ignores, does not adopt, or weakens recommendations and timelines proposed by the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action in their landmark cross-party report.
There were no specific measures aimed at reducing dependency on private cars as the primary means of travel, said Kevin O’Farrell of Irishcyclist.ie. The plan was over-reliant on “over-ambitious and unrealistic electric vehicle targets”, was weak on public transport and the need for a modal shift to “active travel” including cycling, and had no vision for sustainable transport in rural areas.
On agriculture, the analysis finds the plan is a business-as-usual approach “that will do little to ensure reductions in a sector where emissions are projected to rise over the next decade”.
‘Obscure on numbers’
SCCC head of policy Catherine Devitt said "delaying the move to a low-carbon economy will make it costlier to Ireland in the long-term. It also means we're missing out on all the social, economic and public health co-benefits of this transition" including reduced air pollution.
Prof Barry McMullin of DCU the plan was "obscure on numbers" and predicted Ireland's national, Paris-aligned CO2 quota would be exhausted by 2024, as it in effect had a carbon budget of 400 megatonnes of CO2 over the 10 year period from 2015. This was because it was clear on a global level, "there is now little or no atmospheric capacity left to safely absorb CO2 pollution".
Adhering to this limit was necessary if Ireland was going to contribute its fair share globally in reducing emissions. After that, there would be an implied moral obligation for Ireland Inc to urgently “clean up” all of its further CO2 and ultimately to take carbon out of the atmosphere over following decades.
The plan amounts to “a promise of better behaviour in the future, with a commitment to putting binding targets into law along with strong independent oversight and beefed up parliamentary accountability,” said Oisín Coghlan of Friends of the Earth. The actual measures, however, “don’t add up to bringing Irish emissions down far enough fast enough.”
‘Lack of credibility’
The commitment to climate action and measures outlined “lack any real credibility if the Government is willing to support and permit the continued exploration for fossil fuels off the Irish coast”, he said.
The decision by Fine Gael to block further debate on the Climate Emergency Measures Bill was an ill-founded. "Without policy coherence and equity across all economic sectors, emissions reduction efforts are futile and inequity will be enshrined in a policy framework that requires fairness and justice."
Trócaire policy advisor Cliona Sharkey said: "No credible climate plan includes continued exploration for fossil fuels, when more than 80 per cent of fossil fuel reserves we already know about, have to remain unburned if the temperature limits in the Paris Agreement are to be delivered on and catastrophic climate change impacts avoided."