Ireland’s ambitious climate goals need to be backed by firm actions

OECD report shows that while renewable energy usage is rising, targets are still being missed

In spite of accommodating large volumes of renewable wind energy on the power grid, the OECD notes that energy from renewable sources covered just 12%  of the State’s gross energy consumption.  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

In spite of accommodating large volumes of renewable wind energy on the power grid, the OECD notes that energy from renewable sources covered just 12% of the State’s gross energy consumption. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A review of Ireland’s environmental performance over the past 10 years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) welcomes the putting in place of ambitious climate goals.

However, it warns that “more determined action to tackle emissions from buildings, transport and agriculture – especially from ruminant livestock” – is required.

The report acknowledges progress in the phasing out of coal and peat electricity generation, due to be completed by the middle of this decade, and that the share of renewables in the Irish energy mix – especially wind power – has more than doubled since 2010.

“However, fossil fuels dominate, with coal, peat and oil providing about half of home heating,” it says.

Ireland needs to phase out residential fossil fuel boilers more rapidly, while considering fuel-poverty risks. It should also focus support for energy efficiency on deep building renovations.”

The scale of the problem is illustrated, it notes, in 2019 data showing fossil fuels accounted for 88 per cent of Ireland’s total energy (compared to an average of 79 per cent across OECD countries). Oil usage was 47 per cent, compared to an OECD average of 35 per cent.

Wind energy

In spite of accommodating large volumes of renewable wind energy on the power grid, energy from renewable sources covered just 12 per cent of the State’s gross final energy consumption, the OECD notes – “still far from the 2020 target of 16 per cent”.

The report does acknowledge that the last government’s 2019 climate plan would bring down Ireland’s emissions, outside the EU emission trading system, by 29 per cent by 2030 in comparison to 2005 levels.

In addition, it says this would put Ireland on the path to “the net-zero emission goal by 2050”.

The Government has since increased its 2030 target to a 51 per cent cut in CO2.

The OECD warns, however, that considerable investment is needed. “Given public finance constraints, engaging the private sector is crucial to direct investment towards renewables, home retrofitting and electric vehicles,” it adds.

The report strongly advocates racheting up green taxes and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies. It underlines the need to “maintain commitment to progressively increase the carbon tax rate, with compensation measures targeted at most vulnerable people”.

Diesel tax rate

It also backs increasing the diesel tax rate so it at least reaches the petrol tax rate, and phasing out the price cap for diesel used by road hauliers as a key mechanism to facilitate a switch over to electric vehicles in the coming decade.

Encouraging businesses and households to take action is key, it says. “This requires providing consistent price signals for the use of energy and natural resources and for better managing travel demand, while taking into account affordability, employment impact and regional disparities.”

Ireland also needs to maintain a commitment towards a “just transition” to a carbon-neutral economy, the OECD says. “The negative net impact on employment is expected to be modest but concentrated in some areas [such as the Midlands].”

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