Ireland's first carbon budget will be unveiled in coming weeks, which will lead to carbon emissions limits being applied in key sectors of the economy for the first time, Minister for the Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan has confirmed.
Headline limits will be recommended by the expert group making up a strengthened Climate Change Advisory Council by the end of the month. This will trigger a series of steps and "signal a real change of direction and scaling up of climate ambition", he said.
The council verdict on what carbon limits should apply over the next five years will inform a revised climate action plan for Ireland expected for the first week of October – as well as the 2022 fiscal budget, Mr Ryan confirmed.
In addition, radical changes in agriculture due to a revised EU Common Agriculture Policy, including new payments to farmers for environmental services and a climate-proofed national development plan, are due to be agreed and published.
Signing off on these elements “will be the most important month for climate policy in the history of our State”, he said.
Speaking to The Irish Times in advance of the launch of the first Dublin Climate Action Week (DCAW) on Monday, the Minister said sectors would know what limits apply to them once the council outlines its verdict, while this would be clear in the climate plan.
A particular challenge, which he expected the council to raise, was the complex issue of land use, which was a source of 4 million tonnes of CO2, when it needed to be a carbon sink – especially as forestry’s capacity to act as a sink would decrease in the short-term due to harvesting.
Mr Ryan believed transport rather than agriculture would present the biggest challenge for the State. As illustrated in Dublin, it entails “changing every day [MOVEMENT]patterns; it’s not easy”, he said.
Agriculture in some ways was going to be easier “because if agriculture doesn’t do it, they don’t have a leg to stand on when they go out with an Origin Green brand. If you have 500 polluted rivers and try to sell Origin Green, you’re finished,” he said.
The imperative, in his view, would come from the business side. If the emissions of big food and dairy co-ops are shooting up, and they go to financial markets trying raise money, “they will fail”, he predicted – especially if they cannot answer the question, “what are your ‘scope 3’ emissions?”
DCAW, including 70 online and in-person events, is organised by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council (DLRCC), South Dublin County Council, Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, Dublin's energy agency Codema and Dublin Climate Action Regional Office. Details are at www.dublinclimateactionweek.ie.Speaking at the launch in DLR Lexicon, Mr Ryan said local authorities and communities were critical to addressing the crises of climate, biodiversity and pollution.
He believed all four local authorities in Dublin were up for the scale of change necessary and responding to the crises in a non-political way, while local councillors would have to make key decisions in countering the threats – especially in moving away from car dependency.
Speaking on behalf of Dublin’s local authority chief executives, Tom McHugh, DLRCC interim chief executive, said local authorities in Dublin and across Ireland were continuing to respond to and adapt to the needs of local communities.
“This includes both the causes and impacts of climate change. The week reflects the ongoing implementation of the four Dublin local authority climate change action plans,” he said.