8 September 2020
The investment plans of the energy and heating sectors in Ireland are “at odds” with decarbonisation and are likely to lock-in carbon intensive high emissions, a new report has revealed.
Friends of the Earth Ireland found that the The Electricity Supply Board (ESB), Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities all reference “low-carbon” commitments in their mission statements, but fail to specify compliance with national and international climate law, address climate justice, or sustainable development.
The mandates of GNI and ESB, according to the environmental organisation, allow for continued and potentially increasing investment in fossil gas infrastructure.
“And unfortunately, an examination of their current investment plans reveals plans to expand fossil fuel infrastructure and continue to subsidise fossil gas investment and usage”, the report finds.
Amending the 2015 Climate Act
In order to course-correct and ensure the energy sector is on track to ensure reliable and climate safe energy generation, the report recommends amending the 2015 Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act.
The amendments should be considered as part of the Programme for Government-promised new Climate Amendment Bill within the first 100 days of the new coalition coming into office, Friends of the Earth said, and that deadline is fast approaching.
These amendments would include public body carbon targets consistent with 2050 climate targets, ensuring a future Oireachtas standing committee on climate change holds both the Government and public bodies to account, and that both local governments and public bodies produce climate action plans.
Climate justice and sustainable development must also be “defined in the Act”, Friends of the Earth go on to say, and should take shape in the forms such as a Commissioner for Future Generations and just transition plans for affected industries.
The report also issues recommendations for GNI, ESB and the Commission for Regulations of Utilities and specifies how the public bodies can meet their climate targets.
The 2015 Climate Act is a statutory piece of legislation, and requires the Government to issue National Mitigation Plans that comply with it.
The Act commits the Government to transition to a “low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by end of the year 2050”.
In a historic ruling in July, Friends of the Irish Environment won their case against the State as the Supreme Court as the seven judges quashed the 2017 National Mitigation Plan, saying it fell “well short” of what was required by law in the Act.
The government must now make a new Mitigation Plan to a degree of specificity required by law in relation to the measures set out in the Plan to deliver the 2050 objective.