Environmental Groups dismayed over European Commission’s 2030 Climate Targets

Published by Dave Brooks on

July 22nd, 2016

Irish Environmental organisations have expressed their dismay at the carbon reduction targets for 2030, which were published by the European Commission on Wednesday, saying that they are not sufficient to meet the objectives of last year’s United Nations agreement in Paris.

The new targets require Ireland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030, but the way in which carbon is accounted for in sectors relating to land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) and also the portion of emissions that can be offset against emissions in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) mean that Ireland will have less to do to meet these targets. The new targets also decrease the chances of keeping average global temperature increases below 1.5° as aimed for in the Paris Agreement.

Commenting on the targets, spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar, Kate Ruddock, said: “There may be certain vested interests in Ireland happy with the changes to the emissions targets announced today. But any celebration is short-sighted and will be short-lived. To treat our climate change targets as some kind of international negotiation which can have winners and losers is to completely misunderstand the aim of climate action. If we fail to achieve the goals of the Paris Talks we all lose.”


The “flexibilities” in the new targets, seen as loopholes by An Taisce’s Professor Barry McMullin, allow Ireland to offset 4% of our carbon from the carbon market towards the Agriculture, Building and Transport sectors, seeing as emissions from the carbon market, which relate to electricity generation and heavy industry are not subject to these new targets. They also allow forestry to count against emissions up to a value of 280m tonnes. Professor McMullin commented: “Planting the right kinds of trees in the right places is good environmental policy, but carbon sequestration in forestry, soils and grassland cannot be equated with effective climate action unless radical cuts in energy and agriculture emissions are also being implemented, which they are not.”

The Environmental Pillar made sure to refocus the issue on the ultimate goal of international agreements and targets in a statement, which is: to prevent catastrophic climate change. “Failure to meet the 1.5° goal will mean a future where flooding, violent storms, and drought will be regular occurrences – as well as the knock on impacts of food insecurity and an increase in climate refugees. The coalition of 28 NGOs also point out that the inclusion of loopholes to get out of emission cuts present their own threats to Ireland’s environment, through the possibility of unsustainable afforestation to achieve high levels of carbon offsetting.

The overall European Union target is to reduce the bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% (on 2005 levels) by 2030, but the diversity in industrial activity and wealth of EU members means that individual members have been allocated different targets and allowances for ETS and LULUCF offsets.


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Dave Brooks

Dave works as Communication Assistant with the Environmental Pillar. His background is in psychology and he has a masters in Environmental Psychology from the University of Surrey.