All-of-Government climate plan ambitious but vague on net-zero 2050 target

June 17th, 2019

The Government has launched its ambitious cross-sector climate action plan today, yet, failed to fully commit to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Climate Action Plan to Tackle Climate Breakdown contains 180 actions in areas such as electricity, transport, agriculture, heating, and waste.

While the Government will support the ambition emerging within the European Union to achieve a net zero emissions target by 2050, the Plan commits to “evaluate in detail the changes required to adopt such a goal in Ireland” by the end of the year.

The Government will do this as part of finalising Ireland’s long-term climate strategy by the end of 2019 as per the advice of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the recommendation of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action .

“We have also sought a pathway to 2030 which would be consistent with a net zero target by 2050,” the new Plan states.

The recent landmark climate report from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA) called for the 2050 net zero target to be set in stone in new climate legislation.

A Fine Gael amendment to the JOCCA report that was ultimately pulled by the party amid criticism looked to replace this recommendation with a provision for “an ambitious 2050 target” outside of the legislation.

The Government aims to meet Ireland’s 2030 emissions targets through policies in the plan, which includes generating 70 per cent of Ireland’s electricity generation coming from renewable sources.

Earlier this month, however, the EPA stated that the Ireland is off-track to hit is 2030 targets at present.

Many of the new policy aims in the Plan have already announced by the Government in recent years such as the phase out the use of coal and peat in electricity in 2025 and 2028 respectively.

However, several new ambition policy objections were outlined such as allowing for homeowners who generate their own electricity through renewables to sell surplus energy back to the grid under a micro-generation scheme.

In addition, all Government decisions and major investments will now require “carbon proofing” and a Climate Action Delivery Board will oversee its implementation.

An independent Climate Action Council will also be set up to recommend a national carbon budget and carbon pricing will be put in place in order to create “behaviour changing incentives” and to avoid a lock-in of “carbon intensive technologies”.

A Just Transition Review Group will also be established under the terms of the plan to identify, “specific transition needs” in particular in relation to peat workers in the Midlands.

Speaking at the launch, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recognized that the country is currently behind on its climate targets and referred to the plan as a “roadmap” to help put the country back on track to meeting its 2030 and 2050 goals.

The Taoiseach spoke of pursuing “sensible” climate action and stressed that the Government’s plan didn’t seek a moral or middle ground, but rather a common ground that would serve as, “a platform that we can all build on”.

The objective, the Taoiseach also noted, is to “decrease our greenhouse gas emissions by two per cent a year, each year for the next ten years”.

The government aims to have one million electric vehicles on the road by 2030 and to bring an end to diesel-only purchases for urban public buses from 1 July 2019 onwards.

When asked about the prospect of free public transport at the launch, Minister for Transport Shane Ross said that it was not currently on the table.

Half a million existing homes are set to be retrofitted to reduce household energy emissions and 600,000 new heat pumps will be installed under the plan by 2030, two-thirds of which will be put into existing structures.

Landfill and food waste is also set to decrease significantly and the government plan to ban specific single-use plastic convenience items such as polystyrene containers.

The Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton first announced the development of the plan in November 2018 and was later followed by the publication of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action’s report in March, which contained 41 detailed recommendations on climate action.

About the Author

Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.

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