Motorists could cut carbon emissions by 70%, says scientist

Moratorium on fracking and offshore gas needed ‘if we’re serious about climate change’

Irish motorists could help cut transport carbon emissions in Ireland by 70 per cent over 10 years by choosing one of more than 300 models of car, according to a leading climate scientist.

Prof Kevin Anderson, of the University of Manchester, also said retrofitting the State's housing stock over 15 years would eliminate fuel poverty, which affects between 200,000 and 300,000 homes.

And introducing stringent efficiency standards on electrical equipment would also contribute to a significant reduction in energy demand.

The professor of energy and climate change was speaking at the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin on the achievements and failures following the Conference of Parties (COP21) climate change summit in Paris in December.


Prof Anderson had earlier given a private briefing on climate change to President Michael D Higgins, along with Prof Barry McMullin of DCU, who is chairman of An Taisce's climate committee.

The two men briefed the President at Áras an Uachtaráin after Mr Higgins had expressed interest in an update on climate issues.

‘Complete and abject failure’

Speaking at the institute, Prof Anderson said everything that needed to be known about climate change and how to mitigate its effects was already known 25 years ago but, in the interim, carbon emissions had risen by more than 60 per cent and that was “a quarter century of complete and abject failure”.

He said there was no chance of keeping temperature rises to 1.5 degrees and only “an outside chance”of meeting the 2 degree target. It would require a 10 per cent reduction in emissions year on year from this year.

He also said Ireland should have a moratorium on hydrocarbon developments, including fracking. “If we’re serious about climate change – no shale gas, no offshore oil or gas for Ireland.”

Road transport

Speaking about transport emissions, he said in the EU and US private road transport was responsible for 12-15 per cent of emissions.

However, there were now more than 300 models of petrol and diesel cars with less than 100g of CO2/km, and “they have no price premium. They look like normal cars,” he said. “They fit every normal category except for the sports SUV vehicles.”

He estimated the average car in Ireland used 170g of C02/km and the average car being sold produced 130-140g of C02/km, because of the EU requirement for cars to average 130g, which was still “way above the average of cars available”.

This figure did not include hybrid or electric cars.

He said a move towards models with less than 100g of CO2/km would result in a 70 per cent reduction in transport-sector emissions. “That’s all you require – but we’re not even bothered to do that.”

Prof Anderson also said retrofitting homes would greatly cut energy demands.

Retrofitting every home in Ireland would cost an average of €40,000, amounting to €48 billion over 15 years, or €3 billion a year, equivalent to 1.3 per cent of GDP.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times