President signs Climate Bill, triggering carbon budget process

Ireland ‘set on a legally-binding path to net-zero emissions by 2050’

The broad outline of Ireland's first carbon budget will be set out in "early autumn", putting carbon emissions limits on key sectors of the Irish economy, Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan has confirmed.

This follows President Michael D Higgins’s signing on Friday of the far-reaching Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021.

The process of drawing up the budget led by the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) has already begun, Mr Ryan said. It will have greatest implications for transport and agriculture, which are responsible for more than half of Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Ryan said the intention was to have consensus on the draft budget in advance of the COP26 UN climate conference in November “so we can go with our heads held high” with clear indication of Ireland’s ambition.


He said Ireland was now on a legally-binding path to net-zero emissions no later than 2050, and to a 51 per cent reduction in emissions by the end of this decade.

“The Act provides the framework for Ireland to meet its international and EU climate commitments, and to become a leader in addressing climate change,” he insisted.

“Extreme weather events around the world over the past month have shown us all that we must act quickly, to protect ourselves and our planet. Our immediate target of halving emissions by 2030 is challenging, but it is also an opportunity to transform our economy, create new jobs, protect our environment and build a greener and fairer future.”

This would require a lot of collaboration, especially “in renewable energy, active and sustainable travel, in business, agriculture and across government”, Mr Ryan said.

‘Historic day’

Friends of the Earth director Oisín Coghlan tweeted: “This is an historic day for Irish climate policy and a landmark reform of public administration in Ireland. Now the real work begins.”

Mr Ryan said the next stage of the process would be preparation of regulations on carbon accounting, including land use to achieve carbon storage, in consultation with the CCAC – and consistent with the Paris agreement and European Union rules.

This will be followed by production of the first carbon budget by the CCAC, which will be presented to the Oireachtas and approved by Government. It will then set sectoral emissions ceilings determining how each sector will contribute to achievement of the budget.

The 2021 climate action plan will also be published in early autumn and set out measures to be taken to reach targets in each sector – as required by the EU climate law.

The Act 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”.

Ministers will be responsible for achieving legally-binding targets for their own sectoral area and have to account for their performance towards sectoral targets and actions before an Oireachtas committee.

In addition, local authorities must prepare individual climate plans, including mitigation and adaptation measures. Local-authority development plans must be aligned with their climate plans.

Also, public bodies will be obliged to take account of the national climate plan in the performance of their functions.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times