Climate strike in Dublin September 2019 Photo: Niall Sargent

Next “real battle zone” for climate targets will be sectoral emissions

26 October 2021 

The next battle for meeting national climate targets will come down to who gets the biggest “slice of the emissions cake” one of Ireland’s leading climate scientists has said. 

Speaking to The Green News in the wake of the Climate Change Advisory Council issuing its carbon budget figures yesterday, Professor John Sweeney noted that the “real battle zone” when it comes to their implementation will be sectoral allocations set to be published shortly. 

The Council recommended that Ireland’s total emissions should fall by 4.8 per cent per year from 2021 to 2025 and that their reduction must ratchet up to 8.3 per cent between 2026 and 2030. 

The budgets are part of the larger national framework to reduce national emissions under the newly passed Climate Bill. The first two budgets are slated to cover the next ten years and aim to reduce total emissions by 51 per cent by the end of the decade as committed to in the Programme for Government. 

The latter figure of 8.3 per cent will be “a tough ask”, Prof Sweeney said, especially if “we haven’t achieved what is laid out in the first five-year period”. 

However, overall the Council “got it right” when it came to the carbon budgets in terms of the 51 per cent emissions reduction by the end of the decade in Prof Sweeney’s opinion.  

“It’s just a case of now sticking with it and having the ability to face down the inevitable consequences that will come from some sectors,” he added. 

Speaking on RTE’s News at One earlier today, University College Cork lecturer in energy systems modelling Dr Hannah Daly also stressed the importance of each sector playing their role in order to meet these newly published budgets. 

“If there is under-delivery in some of the big sectors, especially agriculture which accounts for 34 per cent of emissions, it puts decarbonisation in the energy sector in a much more difficult place and requires much more radical action across all the different sectors,” Dr Daly said. 

The recently published National Development plan saw a significant increase in climate ambition in relation to the energy sector, as the Government announced it is now aiming to have up to 80 per cent of electricity come from renewable sources by the end of the decade

Sticking to the carbon budgets would ensure a “cleaner, healthier, safer future”, Friends of the Earth Ireland Director Oisin Coghlan said in response to their publication. 

The backloading of steeper emissions cuts in the second carbon budget is “just about acceptable”, according to Mr. Coghlan. 

“This is not the same thing as delaying action, it’s simply a reflection of the fact that new policies take time to have an impact,” he said. 

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan is now set to propose carbon budgets to the Government and to the Oireachtas which will be used to set sectoral emission ceilings and is expected to issue the new Climate Action Plan next week. 

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Kayle Crosson