Ireland taking a ‘shameful’ approach to emissions targets

Government accused of using loopholes to reduce its commitment to curbing carbon emissions

The Government has been accused of availing of a series of “concessions and loopholes” which will allow Ireland to reduce its commitments to curbing carbon emissions up to 2030.

Europe’s commitment to the Paris accord on climate change reaches a critical point on Friday with negotiations between member states on the EU’s “cornerstone measures” due to be agreed for implementation.

This is known as the "Effort Sharing Regulation" (ESR), which sets targets for member states to reduce emissions from transport, agriculture and small industry". The EU Environment Council is hosting the meeting in Luxembourg.

Environment ministers will also consider regulations “on land use, land-use change and forestry” with a view to agreeing on a general approach for legislative proposals to cut greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions in sectors not covered by the EU Emissions Trading System which regulates GHG from aviation and power generation.


Ireland's approach was described as "shameful" and "a betrayal of the Paris Agreement" by the Irish campaign group Stop Climate Chaos (SCC).

Letter to Minister

In a detailed letter to the Minister for Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten, SCC spokesman Sorley McCaughey cited major weaknesses in the proposed regulations.

“Ireland’s support for many of the weakest aspects of both proposals is a cause for considerable alarm from both a global and national perspective,” he said.

Mr Naughten will be attending the council meeting, a Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment spokesman confirmed. “It would not be appropriate to comment on the contents of this letter in advance of the meeting,” he added.

Climate Action Network Europe claimed Ireland was about to secure “the most staggering concessions” in spite of being the only EU country “where polluting emissions are predicted to continue to rise”. In addition, Ireland is likely not to meet its 2020 targets on reducing CO2. The 2030 target is a 30 per cent reduction in emissions.

"The Government's focus on loopholes to avoid actual emissions cuts will only increase Ireland's overall 2050 mitigation challenge, as well as drive up the financial, political and social costs of severe climate impacts and persistent non-compliance," said climate expert Prof John Sweeney of Maynooth University.

2020 targets

“The text as it currently stands will also be a missed opportunity to reap the many co-benefits of reduced emissions, such as improved soil, lower health costs and enhanced air quality,” he added.

The German government has proposed using 2020 targets “as a starting point” for member states such as Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Luxembourg which are expected to fail to meet their goals.

But Friends of the Earth director Oisín Coghlan said countries should not be rewarded for missing targets, especially as “the Government is seeking to deviate significantly from the pathway to achieve its own objective for 2050”.

"Ireland's strong support for a weak EU climate law sits in stark contrast to the Taoiseach's commitment to tackle climate change," said Jennifer Higgins of Christian Aid Ireland. "The Government's strong lobby for loopholes and concessions, which would allow it to avoid action, reveals the hypocrisy of talk at home of becoming 'a leader in tackling climate change'."

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

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