Delivering on Paris Climate Agreement will require a “New Deal or Marshall Plan”

4 November 2020 

Genuinely delivering on Paris climate agreement targets will take measures like “the New Deal or the Marshall Plan,” the Committee on Climate Action heard today. 

Engineering Professor Kevin Anderson from Manchester University said that meeting the framework’s target of keeping warming below 1.5 C will require a massive mobilised effort like US President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt’s New Deal or the post-World War II Marshall Plan for Europe. 

“That is a future awash with jobs, with retrofitting, and a massive roll out of renewables,” Professor Anderson said. 

A piecemeal, business-as-usual approach that Ireland is currently following will simply “not resolve the climate change challenge”, he concluded. 

Prof Anderson recommended that in order to comply with the Paris Accords, Ireland must oversee an annual mitigation rate of over 12 per cent year on year in order to see a 80 per cent emissions reduction in CO2 by 2030 compared to 2018 levels. 

If this pathway is pursued, Ireland would then be able fully decarbonise its entire energy system within the next 15 to 20 years. 

Additionally, total agricultural methane and nitrous oxide emissions must be reduced by “at least” 3 per cent per year to meet this target, according to Prof Anderson. 

Emissions are “massively skewed” 

Prof Anderson also stressed to Committee members that to some degree in Ireland, emissions are “massively skewed to a relatively small portion of the population”. 

The wealthiest ten per cent of the country emits almost as much as the bottom 50 per cent, a report from Oxfam Ireland revealed earlier this year. 

Achieving climate justice, the report stressed, must see those who have contributed the most to the climate crisis bearing the greatest responsibility in addressing it.

On the matter of biogenic methane, which in the Programme for Government recognised as having “distinct characteristics”, has to be drastically reduced due to its near-term warming potential. 

Ireland should also steer clear of relying offsetting emissions elsewhere through bio-energy with carbon capture (BECSS) as it is “sticking a plaster over a systemic problem” and endangers Sustainable Development Goals commitments, according to Professor Anderson. 

Just Transition 

Dr Larry O’Connell and Dr Jeanne Moore from the National Economic and Social Council also spoke before the Committee today, primarily fielding questions on Just Transition and its role in the Bill. 

In her opening remarks, Dr Moore noted that aligning a Just Transition with decarbonisation is necessary, however there is no “blueprint or fixed set of rules” on how to achieve it. 

Current mechanisms exist for a Just Transition within the Programme for Government, according to Dr Moore, and focus should be directed on bringing the concept into effect and ensure it is incorporated at local and statutory level. 

On the matter of public participation within the bill, processes of engagement like the Citizens Assembly, should be “ongoing” and not just a one-off occasion, Dr Moore told the Committee. 

“I think reflecting on a climate dialogue is really important and I welcome the signs that that will be developed further,” she said. 

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Kayle Crosson