Ireland faces ‘spiralling crisis’ over carbon emissions

EPA figures show State likely to miss EU goal to cut down on greenhouse gases released

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  said economic expansion and fossil fuel consumption were causing large increases in greenhouse gas emissions from transport. Photograph: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said economic expansion and fossil fuel consumption were causing large increases in greenhouse gas emissions from transport. Photograph: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images.

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Ireland is facing into a “spiralling crisis” due to its failure to deal with greenhouse gases in the State, which is compounded by an inadequate response to the devastation caused by global warming abroad, aid agency Trócaire has said.

“There is human tragedy unfolding caused by climate change against a backdrop of seeming political indifference,” said Trócaire’s head of policy, Niamh Garvey.

The latest projections from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), up to 2035, show that Ireland is likely to miss European Union 2020 carbon reduction targets “by an even greater margin than previously thought”. The 2020 targets include a 20 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions on the 1990 levels.

The EPA said economic expansion and fossil fuel consumption were causing large increases in emissions from transport, which is forecast to see the largest increase of any sector, followed by agriculture.

Ms Garvey said the EPA’s “headline message” was that a decisive move away from fossil fuels is needed and this should be urgently heeded.

“Yet globally, and in Ireland, decision makers have been painfully slow to act.”

Oblige

The Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill, which would oblige the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to stop investing in fossil fuels, is set to go to report stage ahead of the Dáil’s summer recess.

“How parties and TDs vote will be a first test of their intentions to act on this spiralling crisis,” Ms Garvey said.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) called on the Government to introduce a programme to curb greenhouse gas emissions, particularly those arising from the transport sector.

Thomas Cooney, IFA environment chairman, said emissions from agriculture were expected to rise by 3 to 4 per cent between now and 2020 but that “transport will go up by 17 to 18 per cent”.

He said 20 per cent of the Public Service Obligation levy - which is paid by homeowners to support the generation of electricity from sustainable and renewable sources - should be used to encourage people to replace their fossil fuels with renewables sources, such as roof-top solar and micro-energy.

‘Shocking’

Friends of the Earth director Óisín Coghlan said the Government stood indicted by the EPA figures “which are shocking but not surprising given its inaction on climate pollution”.

“Ireland’s long-running climate policy crisis is now an emergency. The Government must immediately take on board the common sense but far-reaching proposals in the Citizens’ Assembly report which was presented to the Oireachtas last month,” he added.

“There is a proposal for a dedicated Oireachtas committee to take the recommendations forward, as was done in the case of the Eighth Amendment. That committee must be set up and resourced as a matter of urgency.”

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan supported the committee idea.

“We want the committee to bring in the secretary generals from all the relevant Government departments. It should report before the end of the year on how we can raise ambition in the new National Energy and Climate Plan that has to be presented to Europe, ” he said.

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