Penalties for missing climate change goals to be less than claimed, Minister says

Experts say Ireland in line for fines of up to €600m for missing 2020 carbon cuts target

Ireland will face substantial fines for missing European carbon reduction targets by 2020 but the penalties will not be as high as the €600 million some experts have predicted, the Minister for Climate Action has said.

Responding to a European Commission report, which this week warned of the consequences of missing the targets on decarbonisation and adopting renewable energy, Denis Naughten said Ireland faced uniquely challenging circumstances.

Based on current shortfalls in reaching the target of reducing emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, climate and energy experts estimate Ireland will face fines of up to €600 million a year until it is compliant.

The commission's '2018 Country Report' on Ireland concludes that "existing climate change mitigation efforts will not enable Ireland to achieve its Europe 2020 climate goals domestically".


"Only limited progress has been achieved in decarbonising key parts of the economy, mainly in agriculture, road transport and the residential sector," it adds.

Mr Naughten's spokeswoman said Ireland's "20 per cent target for emissions reductions (based on 2005 levels) is jointly the most demanding reduction targets of any member state under the EU's Effort Sharing Decision, which is shared only with Denmark and Luxembourg".

Not possible

She said that “based on current trajectories it will not be possible for Ireland to meet its 2020 target”, which was attributed to “constrained investment capacity” in the renewable energy sector over the past decade as a result of the “economic crisis, and the challenging nature of the target itself”.

The legislative framework governing the 2020 emissions reductions targets includes a number of flexibility mechanisms to enable member states to meet their annual emissions targets, including provisions to bank any excess allowances to future years and to trade allowances between member states.

“Using its banked emissions from the period to 2015, Ireland is projected to comply with its emissions reduction targets in each of the years 2013 to 2018,” she said.

The spokeswoman acknowledged cumulative emissions are expected to exceed targets for 2019 and 2020, which would result in a requirement to purchase additional “allowances” for these two compliance years.

“While this purchasing requirement is not expected to be significant, further analysis will be required to quantify the likely costs involved.”

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

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