Shortfall in Ireland's carbon reduction plans expected for 2022

Climate Action Plan will see ‘conservative’ reductions in carbon over the next year

Taoiseach Micheál Martin arrives for the Cop26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on Monday. Photograph: Phil Noble/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin arrives for the Cop26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on Monday. Photograph: Phil Noble/PA Wire

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Carbon reduction targets for 2022 are expected to fall short of the 4.8 per cent annual reduction outlined in last week’s five-year carbon budget.

Well-placed Government sources said the Climate Action Plan, to be published after a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, will be conservative in terms of carbon reductions over the next year.

This is because the Government is keen to keep stakeholders on board prior to the approval of sectoral emissions ceilings by the Oireachtas, and also because the mechanisms will not yet be in place to achieve a reduction of almost 5 per cent in emissions next year.

The shortfall is expected to be made up by steeper reductions in the last four years of the carbon budget, bringing the average to 4.8 per cent.

As part of the wider plan, the gradual increase of the amount of renewable energy in the grid from 70 per cent to 80 per cent, by expanding offshore wind and solar resources, will be a central plank of the plan.

A Cabinet committee involving the Coalition party leaders and senior Ministers will finalise the plan on Wednesday, with a small number of issues still the subject of contention.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are under growing pressure from farmers’ representatives fearful of swingeing cuts in emissions for the agriculture sector under the plan, and there is also nervousness within both parties of a negative reaction to the plan from rural backbenchers.

‘Core measures’

Documents seen by The Irish Times which detail the “core measures” of the plan show that previous targets for a variety of climate measures will be extended in the new plan.

They include increasing the amount of car kilometres to be delivered by electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030 to 40-45 per cent of total car transport, up from 35-40 per cent in the 2019 plan.

The new aim will be to have 25 per cent car sales to be EVs by 2025 and 90 per cent by 2030. All fleet changes for buses and trains will be electric by 2030.

There will be a big jump in the targets for district heating, that is, using heat thrown off by industrial processes to heat buildings in an area.

The Government will announce a target of having 500,000 homes retrofitted and 400,000 existing homes to have zero-emissions heating by 2030.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has denied its withdrawal of a Private Members’ motion on wind turbines from the Dáil agenda was because it might throw doubt on its credentials on climate change.

The Bill, due to be debated on Thursday, would have prohibited any turbine being built within a space of 10 times its height from the nearest house. Government parties have claimed that this onerous setback stipulation would have prevented turbines being built in most areas of the country.

‘Outdated’

Sinn Féin whip Pádraig Mac Lochlainn admitted the Bill was “outdated” and there was “room for improvement”. He dismissed criticism that it was anti-wind power and was withdrawn because it coincided with the Cop26 UN Climate Change Conference.

“It’s a Bill that was first drafted as long as five years ago. The intentions are good [but] it’s out of date. When our team looked at it they acknowledged that and we decided it was best to withdraw it,” he said.

Green Party TD and chair of the all-party Committee on Climate Action Brian Leddin said the Bill’s setback provisions made it the least wind-friendly in Europe, with the exception of Hungary. He said its provisions also effectively banned the export of wind energy, which he described as “ludicrous”. Mr Mac Lochlainn said that was one of the aspects that needed to be updated.