A closer look: the Climate Change Performance Index

12 November 2021 

It’s a big day at COP26 in Glasgow as we all know – the second draft of the final text is out and who knows how long the negotiations will go on for. 

But we wanted to take a quick break from our usual programming for the past two weeks to bring you some top lines on Ireland from the newly launched 2022 Climate Change Performance Index. 

You might have missed it (for the record, we didn’t – there’s just been a lot on). The index has been published every year since 2005 and monitors 60 countries to see where they are at with addressing the climate crisis. 

The experts that compile the report look at four areas: greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, energy use and climate policy. 

We took a look at how Ireland did and pulled out some key themes. 

Overall, Ireland’s still not doing well. 

Out of the 60 countries (which overall account for 92 per cent of global emissions), Ireland comes in 46th. So overall – we fall into the low performance category. It’s also a drop from our performance last year, where we came in at 39th. 

In particular, we fall under the “very low” rating for the 2022 index on overall and per capita greenhouse emissions and on our 2030 climate targets. 

Where things are looking somewhat up are our renewable energy use (which is largely driven by wind) and we’ve been given a bang-on average “medium” rating for our energy use. 

In comparison to other countries, we’re far behind a good chunk of other European countries, including Denmark, the index’s top performer. 

Implementation (as always) is king. 

The experts behind the report recognised Ireland’s newly passed Climate Bill over the summer of 2021 and noted it as being progress. However, there are significant risks to the legislation which they say are due to “weak implementation across Government”. 

The Bill – as we know – is set to serve as a blueprint for climate action and includes 5-year carbon budgets, the first two of which are set to halve emissions by the end of the decade. But whether or not we get there is going to come down to what emission cuts happen where and how quickly they happen. 

But on a slightly more positive note, the report did call for Ireland to join initiatives like the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance – which Ireland did just yesterday. The international alliance aims to phase out the use and production of the aforementioned fossil fuels and campaigners hope it will lead to a domestic policy shift here at home, too. 

Data centres & agriculture emission targets run climate target risks.  

Data centres – which essentially house the internet – have been a hot topic over the past few months. There’s 70 of them currently up and running in Ireland, and as it currently stands, Dublin is the largest data centre hub in Europe. There’s more in the pipeline as we speak (or rather, type) and so their presence is set to grow. 

According to a report from EirGrid, they could even take up nearly a third of our national grid by 2030. 

This presence and growth of data centres runs the risk of locking-in fossil gas which would lead to further warming, according to the CCPI’s report. 

In the same breath in their national assessment of Ireland, the authors also noted that lower overall emissions targets for agriculture – our largest emitting sector – runs the risk of “increasing pressure on the rest of society”. 

Experts have long warned that this would be the case if agriculture didn’t do its fair share of reduction and we’ll get the final figure of what its emissions target is for the near future in the coming weeks and months. 

Emissions should reach net-zero before 2050. 

And lastly – the index stressed that the current net-zero target that Ireland has enshrined in its Climate Bill should actually be reached before mid-century. 

This development would be in line with global fairness principles and with the United Nations climate convention that states rich countries should lead the way on transitioning their economies, meaning Ireland should hit this state of being well-before the global average. 

This is also reiterated in the Paris Agreement, which acknowledges that developing countries will see their emissions peak later than developed ones, therefore the latter need to significantly up its ambition if we’re to see overall net-zero emissions in roughly 30 years time.  

About the Author

Kayle Crosson