Government seeks public views on how best to decarbonise by 2050

Key climate questions set for a future ‘carbon-neutral’ State

The Government is seeking the public views on how best to decarbonise Ireland beyond 2030 that are in line with its commitment to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The process asks key questions on how best to transform the economy, and retrofit almost all buildings in the country to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) and to make them energy efficient within three decades.

It also seeks views on new technologies, including how carbon might be captured, preventing its release into the atmosphere.

The strategies deployed have to be in line with the critical requirement in the Paris Agreement that global temperature rise be kept to less than 2 degrees, and preferably 1.5 degrees by mid century.


The consultation process is required under Ireland’s National Energy and Climate Panel, a final version of which must be submitted to the European Commission by January 1st and must set out pathways to reduce CO2 from all key sectors of the economy in coming decades.

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has sought views on “decarbonisation pathways beyond 2030” in energy, buildings, transport, enterprise, waste, agriculture and land use.

It has also sought views on socio-economic factors that will influence public attitudes and behaviours — and wishes to evaluate likely impacts on citizens and communities while supporting a just transition.

The consultation includes 26 specific questions, seeking responses and ideas to inform Ireland’s long-term strategy, according to a briefing document issued on Tuesday.

They include what are the best targets to achieve carbon neutrality — Ireland currently is failing to meet 2020 targets for reducing emissions and adopting renewable energy. An other question is on what financial instruments could complement a decarbonised economy, though there is not mention of carbon taxes.

On electricity generation it asks “what resources will help manage intermittency on the grid — eg long duration storage, zero-emissions fuel?” This relates to when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine; reducing availability of renewables — and possible deployment of battery technology.

On industry, it asks: “How can emissions from large industry, eg cement and alumina, be reduced, including options beyond fuel substitution?”

On the built environment, it seeks views on how can Ireland retrofit “almost all buildings by 2050”, including options for heating fuels and on what buildings will be most challenging to decarbonise?

It does not go into detail on the extent to which gas will be used in 2050 — the fossil fuel with the least emissions — but seeks answers on “what is the future of the national gas grid in a net-zero emissions pathway?”

A big question is on “ensuring building and infrastructure development supports compact urban development, which is regionally balanced and sustainably designed to reduce GHG and enhance sustainable quality of life”.

On transport, it wants views on how best to achieve a modal shift away from the car and on “what should transport in our cities and rural areas look like by 2050?”

It is interested in views on the most cost-effective solutions for reducing emissions from heavy duty and long-distance vehicles, and on how Ireland as a small island economy can reduce emissions from aviation and navigation.

Under agriculture, the key question is: “How do we secure viable family farms across our regions in an environment profoundly changed by the focus of climate change?” It also asks what are the best ways to minimise GHGs associated with food production.

Ireland’s carbon efficiency in dairying and beef is better than most countries though agriculture is responsible fo 33 per cent of Irish emissions. On this issue, it wants views on “how can the methods of evaluating agriculture and land use give more credit for the relative carbon efficiency of food production in different countries, and the potential large contribution from land use management and afforestation?”

The department is seeking views on the type of nature-based solutions, “including land use, land use change and management”, that could support emissions reduction.

In addition, it seeks responses on the extent to which biomass, biofuels, and biomethane may displace fossil fuels and transform farm opportunities and land use.

Further details are available at:

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times