State’s new €125bn climate plan to cut emissions for rest of decade

Fossil fuel heating to be phased out in public buildings, new transport electrification targets set

The Government will on Thursday unveil a €125 billion climate action plan which will see fossil fuel heating systems no longer installed in public buildings and fresh targets for the electrification of the public transport fleet .

The plan, which will detail the measures to be taken in various sectors to reduce emissions for the rest of the decade, was signed off at a Cabinet committee meeting on Wednesday night and will be approved by Ministers on Thursday morning.

Sources said that the public sector would be asked to lead by example as Ireland seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 before achieving net-zero carbon emissions in 2050.

The plan will see Ireland commit to becoming a leader in electrifying transport in the EU, with all new fleet purchases in the public sector after the end of 2022 set to be zero-emission vehicles where possible.


No new fossil fuel heating systems will be installed from 2023 in public buildings, with some limited exceptions, it is understood.

The new climate action blueprint, which will be published on Thursday afternoon, will be conservative in terms of carbon reductions over the next year with the shortfall expected to be made up by higher reductions in the last four years of the new carbon budgets.

Enormous price tag

An enormous price tag of €125 billion to halve Ireland’s greenhouse emissions by 2030 was understood to have been one of the main stumbling blocks in discussions between the three Coalition parties.

Senior sources said Ministers in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were taken aback by the huge cost proposed by Minister for Climate Change Eamon Ryan and officials from his department.

It is understood there is little disagreement over the percentage reduction that each of the main sectors – agriculture, transport, energy and industry – will have to bear. A key element, sources have said, is agriculture which will be expected to achieve reductions of 21 per cent between now and 2030. The Taoiseach and senior Ministers have insisted its target can be met without reductions in the national herd.

The main difficulty for the other two parties has been the massive cost, as well as the lack of detail in the proposals. It was pointed out the figures, on the face of it, far exceed the allocation to climate change measures announced in the new National Development Plan 2021-2030, which was published only last month.

The first draft of the carbon action plan was presented to the Cabinet subcommittee for the first time last Thursday, it is understood. “It lacked granular detail and it was very hard to see if the figures added up, and what funding would be public and what would be private,” said one figure with knowledge of the process.

Farmers’ action

The focus of discussions at the Cabinet subcommittee revolved around getting more precise information and ensuring that the plan was in keeping with other key government strategies. Climate change measures in the €165 billion National Development Plan over the next nine years are difficult to measure but will be upwards of €50 billion. It includes more than €9 billion drawn from carbon tax revenues as well as over €30 billion for sustainable transport.

However, the Government faces the prospect of a large protest over its climate plan after the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) told members and their families to gather in the capital on November 21st.

IFA president Tim Cullinan said they chose to protest on a Sunday "to limit disruption to the people of Dublin". The gathering on November 21st coincides with the Ireland-Argentina international rugby match and it comes at a time when city traders hope for a Christmas shopping boost to business.

The IFA called the protest as the Government finalised targets for emissions cuts from the farm sector.

Meanwhile, at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, the latest big announcement was the creation of a $130 trillion fund by banks, insurers and investors to help put in place a net-zero global economy by 2050.

UN climate envoy Mark Carney, who helped form the alliance of 450 major companies involved, called it a "watershed" moment, though climate activists questioned the credibility of some of the pledges being made.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times