Naughten defends adjustment of State’s emission targets for 2020

Eamon Ryan accuses Government of seeking to ‘turn this green country brown’

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan:  said Ireland had the third-highest per capita emissions in Europe and was   only one of two EU countries  not going to meet the international commitments by 2020. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: said Ireland had the third-highest per capita emissions in Europe and was only one of two EU countries not going to meet the international commitments by 2020. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Ireland’s 2020 carbon emission targets agreed when the Green Party was in office had to be renegotiated for more realistic goals, Minister for Energy Denis Naughten has claimed. He was responding to accusations by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan that the Government wanted “to turn this green country brown” and that it had used all its political capital in Europe to “get Ireland off the hook” of meeting its climate-change commitments.

Mr Ryan’s remarks follow the announcement by the European Commission on Wednesday of detailed calculations for specific emission targets for member states, in which Ireland received concessions.

Transport emissions were expected to grow by 16 per cent by 2020 and agricultural emissions by 7 per cent, Mr Ryan said. Ireland’s commitment for 2020 was 20 per cent and 20.4 per cent by 2030, half of what other EU countries were committed to.

Mr Naughten said the new targets were achievable and cost-effective. He added the European Commission openly admitted the evidence for the 2020 targets, negotiated when the Green Party was in government with Fianna Fáil, was not as “forthcoming” as that for the 2030 targets.

In an angry outburst during Leaders’ Questions, Mr Ryan said Ireland had the third-highest per capita emissions in Europe and was also only one of two countries in the EU not going to meet the international commitments by 2020.

He claimed the only political response from the outgoing government was “to use all the political capital we achieved over the last five years in Europe to try and achieve one thing which they achieved yesterday, which was to get Ireland off the hook” of taking further action.

“Surely it is not in our interests to place us in the bottom of the league on climate which is what you are doing? And we will miss out on economic opportunities that would come to those countries that lead.”

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald insisted Ireland was committed to transferring to a competitive low-carbon, environmentally sustainable economy. Ireland negotiated on the basis of its issues and on the basis of scientific evidence, the Tánaiste said. “It will be a challenge for the agricultural sector to meet the targets.”

However Mr Ryan questioned how the Government could say it was committed to targets when neighbouring countries were twice as committed. “They’re effectively going for 40 per cent and we’re going for 20 per cent.”

When Ms Fitzgerald asked Mr Naughten to respond, he told the Green Party leader the 2030 targets were “realistic and achievable” and based on detailed evidence that was submitted. A lot of that work had been done by UCC. “The difficulty was in relation to the 2020 targets as it was openly admitted by the commission that the evidence was not as forthcoming as it was in relation to our 2030 targets.”

He reminded Mr Ryan that the Greens had negotiated the 2020 targets. He added that the “baselines and targets that were used left us in a position that was always going to be unachievable to reach and what we now have are targets that are achievable and can be reached”.