Cabinet approves Climate Bill which commits State to net-zero carbon by 2050

Bill would be game changer in reducing emissions – Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan

At a joint press conference with Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister for Climate Action and the Environment Eamon Ryan said the law would have Ireland reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Video: RTE


The Cabinet has approved the publication of the Climate Action Bill which commits Ireland to be a net-zero carbon State by 2050, and to achieve a 51 per cent reduction in emissions by the end of this decade.

The revised version of the Climate Bill embeds the process of setting binding and ambitious emissions-reductions targets in law. The Bill also provides a legal framework for Ireland to meet its international and EU climate commitments.

Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan, who brought the legislation to the meeting today, said that the Bill would be a game changer in terms of reducing carbon emissions in the State.

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill, a key commitment in the programme for government, will be progressed through the Houses of the Oireachtas as priority legislation with Ireland’s first carbon budget due later this year.

The final version of the Bill “embeds the process of setting binding and ambitious emissions-reductions targets in law”.

The final legislation contains much stronger language than the draft legislation published by Mr Ryan last autumn which was criticised for not setting sufficiently robust language, and for using language around targets that was too vague.

The Bill does not provide for specific sectoral targets, such as in transport and agriculture. A strengthened Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) will recommend “carbon budgets” which will limit emissions in the form of sectoral ceilings once approved by the Oireachtas and Government. The budgets will be initially submitted to the Minister for Climate and must match ambition set in the Bill and international obligations.

The Bill provides for “a national climate objective”, which commits to pursue and achieve no later than 2050, “the transition to a climate resilient, biodiversity-rich, environmentally-sustainable and climate-neutral economy”.

It requires that the first two five-year carbon budgets proposed by the CCAC should equate to a total reduction of 51 per cent over the period to 2030, relative to a baseline of 2018 – which will be a considerable challenge, particularly for agriculture which comprises 33 per cent of Irish emissions

Carbon budgets

In addition, the Government must adopt carbon budgets consistent with the Paris agreement and other international obligations. All forms of greenhouse gas emissions including biogenic methane will be included in the carbon budgets.

However it is up to Government to decide on the trajectories for different sectors. It will determine, following consultation, how to apply the carbon budget across the relevant sectors, and what each sector will contribute in a given five-year period.

Actions for each sector will be detailed in the climate action plan which must be updated annually.

Government Ministers will be responsible for achieving the legally-binding targets for their own sectoral area with each Minister accounting for their performance towards sectoral targets and actions before the Oireachtas Climate Committee each year.

‘Affirms our ambition’

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the Bill “affirms our ambition to be a global leader in this field. As we begin our journey towards net-zero emissions, the Government is committed to tackling the challenges, and embracing the opportunities, this transition can bring our economy, our society and our country.”

Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar added: “As we emerge from the pandemic, we must ensure that the road to recovery is a sustainable one. I am confident that the decarbonisation of the economy will present significant opportunities for Irish business, for trade and for new employment.”

Whether that is in the huge expansion of entire industries, such as retrofitting or offshore wind, by becoming an electricity exporter or new jobs in cleantech, “the early movers with the most ambition will see the greatest opportunities”, he added.

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan said: “We finally have urgent ambition set in legislation that puts Ireland on the road to net-zero emissions by 2050. We also have a legally-binding framework in place which includes accountability to deliver our target of a 51 per cent reduction over the next decade.

“It’s time to set out a new Climate Action Plan, to begin the journey to Net Zero, by halving our emissions over the next 10 years. In doing so, we can build a cleaner, more sustainable and secure future for us all.”

The preparation of the 2021 Climate Action Plan will involve a major public consultation being launched today with options for participation by experts and citizens.