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Ireland’s climate advisory council will develop an overarching climate budget

‘The sustainable revolution is built on renewable resources, and we have so many of them’

We’re very fortunate the Industrial Revolution was built on coal and steel. And it passed us by because we didn’t have the resources. The sustainable revolution is built on renewable resources, and we have so many of them

We’re very fortunate the Industrial Revolution was built on coal and steel. And it passed us by because we didn’t have the resources. The sustainable revolution is built on renewable resources, and we have so many of them

 

With Cop26 fast approaching and the UN climate change targets in focus, there is pressure on Ireland to address the climate crisis more than ever. The Climate Change Advisory Council of Ireland has been tasked with developing the overarching climate budget which will be used to help us to achieve our sustainable goals. As an independent body it assesses and advises on how Ireland is making the transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally-sustainable economy by 2050.

Chairperson Marie Donnelly is leading the way with in-depth knowledge and a broad range of experience, and she is upbeat.

“Sustainability for our economy and our society will destroy jobs but will also create jobs. And it’s the same challenge, how do we ensure that people can upgrade their skills, get new skills and move into new areas so as to maintain their life, their income, as we go forward in this change?”

For Donnelly there are three key issues that inform her work: metrics, feedback from members and legislation. She views her role to deliver on the legislation in a way that is scientifically-grounded and independent.”

The climate group sets a target of net zero by 2050 and a 51 per cent reduction by 2030, but shorter-term goals and plans are required to make the tasks more manageable.

“We will have ongoing five-year carbon budgets. So that allows us to operate in a near-term cycle of five years. And the council is charged to make a recommendation to the government for a budget for the first half of this decade, the second half and a provisional one for the next. And that budget is an all-economy budget.”

Different sectors

It will ultimately be up to the government to divide the carbon budget, but Donnelly has knowledge in different sectors and is there to offer advice at any stage.

Farming and agriculture will have to develop a sink for Ireland because land breathes and that will primarily come from forests. Transportation covers individual transport requirements, alternative transport means and technology. The renewable energy sector looks at circulating energy so, for example, a heat output is not wasted.

“An example is the Microsoft data centre is Tallaght that captures its excess, unwanted heat and is distributed to nearby housing for heat. Nothing is wasted and energy is reused.”

Donnelly believes that we are going in the right direction but could go further, faster.

“We’re very fortunate the Industrial Revolution was built on coal and steel. And it passed us by because we didn’t have the resources. The sustainable revolution is built on renewable resources, and we have so many of them.

“It is a real opportunity for Ireland and for the people of Ireland. And it is a strategic option for us. But of course it’s also important that everybody feels part of that opportunity.”

Ireland missed its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions targets and had to buy credits. However, the critical targets are contained in the Paris Agreement.

“The real issue we’re trying to impact is temperature change. And that’s our challenge, because trying to keep it to 1.5 is going to be extremely difficult.”

All-party policy

The model country for Ireland would be Denmark – its population is about the same as ourselves. Denmark has done a number of things.

The first thing is that climate change action is an all-party policy. This has been in place now for many years. It’s not a political football.

Secondly, it has looked at its entire economy, so it’s not piecemeal. Just as an illustration, Copenhagen has the biggest waste incinerator in Europe and the design has one sloped roof that is used as a ski slope in winter. And on the other wall it’s a climbing wall for kids. It wasn’t just an incinerator that nobody wanted – it became part of Copenhagen. It’s a place for the citizens of Copenhagen to use.

“So their attitude to what they do for climate change is much more ingrained in society, and how societies can benefit from it,” says Donnelly.