Climate change plan seeks to electrify Irish motor fleet in 13 years

Plan says agriculture should attain status of ‘carbon neutrality’ by 2050

Denis Naughten: he described the plan as  an “initial step to set Ireland on a pathway to achieve deep decarbonisation”

Denis Naughten: he described the plan as an “initial step to set Ireland on a pathway to achieve deep decarbonisation”


The Government’s new blueprint for reducing greenhouse emissions in Ireland by 80 per cent before 2050 contains 106 actions but admits substantial uncertainty as to whether the targets can be achieved.

The National Mitigation Plan includes a pledge to effectively electrify the entire 2 million-strong Irish car and van fleet by 2030, but there is no detail as to how that will be achieved.

The plan has been described by Minister for Climate Action Denis Naughten as the “initial step to set Ireland on a pathway to achieve deep decarbonisation”.

The first of its kind in a decade, it expands on a draft policy published earlier this year, which was criticised for its lack of specifics and firm commitments.

Agriculture accounts for a third of all emissions in the State, but there are fewer actions specified for addressing the issue in this sector than for transport, the built environment or energy.

Instead the reports sets out a special case for agriculture, saying that increased demand for food in the world must be linked with the improving environmental and sustainable credentials of agriculture and food production.

Rather than setting out emissions reductions targets, the plan states that agriculture should attain a status of “carbon neutrality” by 2050. This will be achieved by planting trees to offset emissions, using alternatives to fossil fuels and constraining agricultural activity.

Forest cover

One of the most notable specifics is a goal to spread forest cover from 11 per cent of the State’s land mass to 18 per cent by 2050.

However, the report accepts that achieving full neutrality with all possible measures in place will be “very challenging”. The report states it will have to rely on “new technologies yet to emerge”.

Friends of the Earth director Oisín Coghlan described the plan as a disappointing one which was short of specific measures such as ending the burning of peat and coal for electricity generation.

The plan accepts that meeting the stringent targets will be hugely challenging in all sectors, especially in a scenario where Ireland’s emissions are now increasing rather than decreasing.

Agricultural emissions look set to rise 5 per cent between 2015 and 2030, while transport emissions also look to rise between 10 per cent and 12 per cent in the same period.

Among the commitments given is that all cars and vans in Ireland will be zero emission (or adapted to same by 2030). At present only about 2,000 of the estimated 2 million vehicles on the road are electric.

Electric cars

Eamon Ryan TD, of the Green Party, said the plan lacked concrete detail or commitments, while Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley said Ireland was failing to green its transport sector. “Currently there are about 2,000 electric cars in Ireland compared to about 150,000 in Norway,” he said.

There are plans to extend the Luas to Balbriggan, and a commitment (but no specific plans as yet) to expand public transport, sustainable travel including cycling, and other alternative methods.

In the energy sector the plan states that bioenergy could be the dominant energy source in 2050.

It says a decision will be taken on the Moneypoint coal-burning station in 2020, and that peat-burning stations will be replaced by a new renewable bioenergy division of Bord na Mona over the next number of years.

The plan accepts that the EU’s target of 27 per cent renewable energy by 2030 is challenging. Indeed, even the more immediate target of 40 per cent renewable electricity (as opposed to energy) by 2020 is becoming increasingly difficult because of slow planning and local opposition.

Among the new forms of energy identified are offshore wind, interconnector imports, sustainable biomass, and solar energy. However, no specific measures are identified for solar energy.