Ireland won’t ‘throw towel in’ on climate targets, says Naughten

Transport and agriculture pose huge challenges in meeting EU limits, says Minister

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten: “It is important to narrow the gap. That means we don’t throw the towel in.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten: “It is important to narrow the gap. That means we don’t throw the towel in.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons.

 

The Minister with responsibility for climate change has said Ireland faces “real issues” in trying to meet the EU’s 2020 targets on climate.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten has said two big emissions sectors, transport and agriculture, present huge challenges for the Government in its efforts to keep relatively close to the European Union limits.

It has been accepted for some time that Ireland will not meet the target for 2020, which requires a reduction of 20 per cent in emissions from a 2005 baseline.

“These targets were never going to be attainable in the way they were structured,” Mr Naughten told The Irish Times.

“It’s a benchmark. We will work towards it. We will do everything we can to get to the targets or get to the closest possible point. Any effort we make for 2020 will have an impact for the 2030 targets. It is important to narrow the gap. That means we don’t throw the towel in.”

The target for 2030 emissions reductions is expected to increase substantially following the agreement reached at the United Nation global climate change conference in Paris last December. Irish officials have been making a case that would allow Irish targets to be attainable.

The Government has also argued Irish agriculture is among the most sustainable in the world and that should be recognised by the EU when setting out emissions targets for that sector.

Mr Naughten said good progress was being made in the electricity sector, and in renewable heat.

“Transport is going to be a huge challenge for us,” he said, referring to the increase in transport emissions since the State came out of recession.

He said the response from Government to this was limited. “Until the technology is developed for e-cars to be extensively available, there is not a lot we can do about it. The biofuels commitment will deal with a certain part of it.”

On agriculture, he said cutting the national herd would simply mean the gap in beef and dairy production would be taken up by producers in other countries, whose methods are less efficient and less sustainable.

He said one of his first priorities would be to put a huge emphasis on energy efficiency, adding that he hoped to revive the home insulation scheme.

The obstacle faced by most householders, he said, was the huge upfront capital costs that would take many years to repay.

He said that he would like to find a model that would follow the same rationale as the bike- to-work scheme. That would see energy providers footing the initials costs to insulate homes to high standards, with the householders repaying the cost on their bills, or from their salaries, over the medium to long term. He said he would need additional money to help kick-start this scheme.

On wind farms, Mr Naughten said a “range of solutions was needed and not just one.”

He said wind generation was part of the mix but said other technologies needed to be developed. He instanced offshore wind and ocean technology.