Motorists may have to drive slower on motorways under climate plan

Cabinet to discuss the strategy to ‘de-carbonise’ the economy during day-long meeting

A reduction in the motorway speed limit from 120 to 110 kilometres per hour and an extension of the Dart as far as Balbriggan, Co Dublin, are among the proposals in the Government’s climate action plan published today.

Ways to reduce the impact of climate change in Ireland and the status of the economy are to be discussed in a day-long Cabinet meeting to take place in Celbridge, Co Kildare on Wednesday.

The Cabinet’s first strategic planning session comes after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said nothing less than “fundamental societal transformation” was necessary to decarbonise the economy.

Cabinet members meeting at Castletown House will hear a 30-minute presentation from Minister for Climate Change Denis Naughten on the National Mitigation Plan which has already been approved by Government, but which requires “buy-in” on implementation from individual departments.


The plan, to be published on Wednesday morning, will include sections on measures already in place, measures under consideration and the distance to achieving emissions reductions targets.

It is anticipated that as individual Government departments’ policy changes are implemented, the distance to targets will change, and the plan will be continually updated.

‘Carbon sinks’

Measures currently under discussion include when exactly the EU will, as already agreed, allow the classification of State forests as “carbon sinks” – a move that would reduce significantly the calculated total of carbon emissions.

The plan is divided into sections covering decarbonising transport; electricity generation; the built environment and agriculture. It includes 106 recommended “actions” identifying which individual Government department is to be held responsible for progress across each of the four key areas.


The National Mitigation: key points

  • - Electrification of the northern Dart line to Balbriggan by 2022
  • - Maintain a grant scheme for electric vehicles. Support levels to be reviewed annually
  • - Deploy 14 compressed natural gas filling stations by 2020
  • - Consider a review of vehicle and fuel taxes to encourage decarbonisation of transport by 2050.
  • - Consider reducing the top motorway speed from 120 to 110 km/h to save energy
  • - Consider further incentives for the up take of low emission vehicles
  • - Finalise wind energy guidelines by 2018
  • - Carry out a study to find a low carbon replacement technology for Moneypoint coal plant
  • - Review the future of turf plants by 2019
  • - Consider including solar energy enterprises for inclusion in the new renewable energy support scheme
  • - Explore the feasibility of utilising suitable reservoirs for CO2 storage, within the next five years.
  • - Develop minimal thermal standards in rental properties and introduce measures to help landlords comply by 2018
  • - Ongoing encouragement of retrofitting energy saving measures to public buildings including schools
  • - Explore higher value potential for forest and agri residues by 2018
  • - Support the use of forest biomass
  • - Research the motives of people involved in decarbonising thier own input into farming, or energy use.
  • ********

The plan also includes a “Message from the Taoiseach” in which Mr Varadkar says the Government “does not underestimate the scale of what this entails”. He said climate change mitigation will require “fundamental societal transformation”, the allocation of resources and “sustained policy change” as well as “ongoing engagement with wider society”.

He said the upcoming National Planning Framework, a 10-year capital investment plan, and the proposed National Dialogue on Climate Action would all reflect the Government’s focus on decarbonising the economy.

National dialogue

Mr Naughten’s department said he hopes the plan, described as a “living document”, will also kick off a national dialogue on the fiscal and other steps which are necessary to move the economy – and society – from dependence on measures which release carbon.

Brian Carroll, assistant secretary general of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, said the challenge facing policymakers would require “enormous social change” and would need the backing and the “hearts and minds” of Irish people.

At about midday on Wednesday, the plan and the full list of 106 proposed “actions” across all of Government will be published on the website of the Department of Communications, Climate Change and Environment.

A spokeswoman for Mr Naughten said the meeting represented the start of a “whole of Government approach” to climate change.

Key Ministers in charge of agriculture, transport, planning and environment, Michael Creed, Shane Ross, Eoghan Murphy and Denis Naughten respectively, have jointly signed the foreword to the plan.

The afternoon session is expected to consider the broader economy and is expected to look at longer-term funding needs for infrastructure in the light of the forthcoming Budget.

The National Mitigation Plan is expected to go online from about noon on the department webside

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist