A €125 billion Climate Action Plan has been unveiled by the Government which will mean citizens are offered a new low-cost loan scheme to retrofit homes.
Tax incentives are also on the cards and the Cabinet has approved a sweeping climate plan that will include: renewable electricity increased by 80 per cent; a plan for offshore energy; fresh policy on carbon capture before it enters the atmosphere; a scheme for farmers and businesses to sell electricity into the grid; and phasing out of coal- and peat-fired electricity generation.
The plan warns that hundreds of thousands of homeowners will have to decide to invest in decarbonising and making their properties more efficient, which will require a larger retrofit sector and new financing options. Fresh estimates indicate that Ireland will need to deliver, on average, about 75,000 B2-equivalent home upgrades annually from 2026 to 2030 to achieve the target of 500,000 retrofits.
Almost half of the Irish housing stock has an energy rating of D1 or worse. And only 10 per cent have a rating of B2 or better, highlighting the scale of the challenge ahead. The new plan pledges to create a network of registered retrofit one-stop shops to make it easier for people to upgrade their homes.
A centrepiece of this plan will be a national home-retrofit scheme. A new energy-rating tool will also be unveiled by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. In terms of business and enterprise, the report warns that “companies and sectors that fail to decarbonise will become increasingly uncompetitive . . . This has the potential to have far-reaching negative impacts for the economy, including locking us into a redundant fossil-fuel based economic model.”
The Government will now aim to reduce emissions here between 29 to 41 per cent by 2030. A “Climate Toolkit 4 Business” will be launched that will include a simple carbon calculator and will generate a company’s climate-action plan for each business. The climate plan pledges to: enable 500,000 daily sustainable travel journeys by 2030 through major public transport projects such as BusConnects and Connecting Ireland; expand rail services and cycling and walking infrastructure; increase use of biofuels in transport; expand electrification of bus and rail fleets with 1,500 electric buses by 2030; increase the number of electric vehicles to about one million by 2030; and update the public transport and public fleets to low-emission alternatives.
A sharp focus of the plan concerns agriculture which is the largest source of emissions, representing 37.1 per cent of the national total in 2020.
Among the Government objectives in this area are: a plan to reduce significantly chemical nitrogen fertilizer use to 325,000 tonnes per annum; improve animal breeding and feeding; “manage” emissions from the dairy herd; and transform the model of beef production.
Overall the aim is to reduce emissions by 22-30 per cent by 2030. In terms of land use, the plan is to increase afforestation with a new forestry programme to launch in 2023. The aim here is to reduce emission by 37-58 per cent.
More generally, the public sector will be asked to lead by example and the installation of fossil-fuel heating systems in public buildings will be banned after 2023.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Climate Change and Transport Eamon Ryan spoke at a press conference to mark the publication of the 200-page plan containing 475 actions designed to reduce greenhouse emissions in Ireland by 51 per cent by 2030.
It was confirmed that the overall budget for the plan was €125 billion but that was a mix of public and private funding. Mr Ryan said the National Development Plan had committed almost €45 billion to transport and climate change during this decade, but said the majority of the funding in the plan would be private – with the primary costs for individuals being the purchase of electric vehicles and retrofitting their homes.
Mr Ryan said that transport, and the ambition of having one million EVs by 2030, would be the sector that would find it hardest to meet its targets.
“Change is never easy. There are serious obstacles ahead.”
He said that the €360 million per annum for walking and cycling was crucial in terms of encouraging modal shifts (the plan aims that people will be encouraged to shift to taking 500,000 daily sustainable journeys by 2030) and reducing car dependency.
Mr Varadkar said today’s society had taken a century to build up to its present state but it would take a generation before these changes are made fully. “The heavy lifting has to be done between now and 2030,” he said.