Buying carbon credits shows Government’s policies are a ‘charade’

State spent €86m on carbon credits after failing to meet emissions targets, says PAC

PAC director Seán Fleming: ‘If we do not meet our targets we can buy our way out of the problem by buying emissions from somewhere else.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

PAC director Seán Fleming: ‘If we do not meet our targets we can buy our way out of the problem by buying emissions from somewhere else.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The State’s purchase of carbon credits to make up for failures to meet emissions targets has exposed Government policies as a “charade”, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said.

Seán Fleming said the Department of Communications, Climate Change and the Environment had disclosed to him the State has already spent €86 million on purchasing credits, a situation he described as “horrific”.

The committee heard the State could be on the hook for a further €60 million, primarily because of failures to meet renewable energy targets. The EU 2020 target for renewables is 16 per cent, but it is likely the percentage of renewable energy being generated in Ireland by the end of next year will be 3 per cent lower than that, at 13 per cent.

Additional credits

The State may also need to buy up to €13 million in additional credits to meet other Irish targets set by the European Union by 2020.

The high level of purchases of credits was disclosed during a meeting of the PAC on Thursday, less than a week before Minister for Communications Richard Bruton publishes the long-awaited all-of-Government climate action plan.

“I want everyone who is interested in the environment to know it is a charade we are doing in this country,” Mr Fleming commented after disclosing the figures.

The €86 million spent on carbon credits are historical, having being spent during 2008 and 2009.

The cost of inaction will always be greater than the cost of action

“In simple English, if we do not meet our targets we can buy our way out of the problem by buying emissions from somewhere else,” he said, adding it was “the biggest act of gross hypocrisy”.

Inaction

Oisín Coghlan, director of Friends of the Earth, said the story of the last 10 years in Ireland had been one of inaction.

“The cost of inaction will always be greater than the cost of action,” said Mr Coghlan.

He added the amount paid on carbon credits was equivalent to the annual budget of the Arts Council.

He said Mr Bruton’s plan next week would present the chance to put it right and allow Ireland to make up ground for 2030 and beyond.

“We need to get off peat and coal immediately,” he said, in reference to the Moneypoint power station in Co Clare and also to the peat-burning generators in the Midlands.