OECD warn that Ireland’s environmental targets appear unachievable

11 May 2021

Ireland’s climate targets appear out of reach despite the impact of Covid-19 on lowering emissions, according to the OECD.

The 10-year review of Ireland’s environmental record revealed that Ireland has one of the highest rates of greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the OECD and in Europe.

Agriculture accounts for more than one-third of emissions and the transport sector is the second largest emissions source for the country.  

The environmental performance review found that Ireland must continue to take positive steps in reducing environmental damage from transport, as mobility patterns and trends are a source of increasing environmental pressures.

It detailed that the country heavily relies on fossil fuels for electricity generation and residential heating and noted that additional efforts need to be taken to meet Sustainable Development Goals in relation to climate, energy, water and biodiversity.  

According to the review, Irelands efforts to adapt to climate change have significantly intensified, as the country’s economic losses due to extreme climate-related events were among the highest in the European Union.

The OECD recommended that Ireland’s National Adaption Framework in 2018 should be “reviewed in line with the national climate risk assessment released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy in 2020.”

Despite Ireland’s strengthened biodiversity policy framework, most habitats remain in unfavourable conditions due to pressures from agriculture, resource extradition, and infrastructure development.

However, the government’s pledge to protect 30 per cent of Ireland’s marine waters by 2030, compared to the current 2 per cent, as well as the national marine planning framework, was noted as a welcome move in restoring biodiversity in Ireland.

Despite the intention,  little progress has been made in extending the protected area network and the report recommends that Ireland develop and adopt the marine spatial planning framework as soon as possible to bring clarity to the development of the ocean’s economy and the sustainable use of marine biodiversity.

The OECD review also recommended that the response to the Covid-19 pandemic should be an opportunity to help make the economy “greener and more inclusive”, as swift action is needed to avoid a rebound of environmental pressures.

Public spending in Ireland on the environment, climate-related research and development is among the lowest in the OECD. 

By Shauna Burdis