‘Agri sector must urgently adopt measures to reduce carbon emissions’ – watchdog report

Ireland is not on track to meet its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions targets, or to de-carbonise its economy by 2050, the Climate Change Advisory Council’s has warned.

According to the first annual review from the independent advisory body, published today, the actions in the current National Mitigation Plan “do not put Ireland on a pathway” to reduce emissions by 2020.

The council stressed that the agriculture sector needed to “urgently adopt and implement” all cost-effective measures. It stated that the goal of carbon neutrality in the agriculture sector needs to be defined and policies put in place to achieve it.

Under the review, the council considered national greenhouse gas inventory data from 1990-2015.

The paper states: “If Ireland does not introduce major new policies and measures it will miss its 2020 targets and, on its current trajectory, will also miss the proposed 2030 European Union target and the objective of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide by at least 80% by 2050.

Last week, provisional greenhouse gas emissions data released released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed continued increases in emissions across the Irish economy in 2016.

The council said that the pace and scale of greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed to be accelerated across all sectors of the Irish economy.

In the annual review, the council was tasked with assessing Ireland’s progress on long-term low-carbon transition to 2050. The review found that some progress had been made in the built environment and energy sectors.

Professor John Fitzgerald, chairman of the council said: “Ireland is still over-reliant on fossil fuels. For example, Ireland has the third highest emissions per capita for residential energy use in the EU, reflecting high dependence on oil, coal and peat.

This has significant implications for both greenhouse gas emissions and air quality, and it has significant negative impacts on health. A clear medium-term strategy to phase out fossil fuels in the electricity, transport and residential sectors is required.

“There is an urgent requirement for new policies and measures, and action beyond what is committed to in the National Mitigation Plan if Ireland is to reduce emissions by 2020 and to move onto a sustainable path to 2050 to tackle climate change,” said Fitzgerald.

He said the new measures should include a substantial increase in the carbon tax, and a phasing out of coal and peat for both residential heating and power generation.

In particular, he emphasised that the subsidy for peat-fired electricity generation should be ended.

“In transport, investments in public transport fleets should avoid fossil fuel lock-in; while overall capital investment should be re-balanced away from roads towards public transport,” said Fitzgerald.

Electric vehicles

The council said incentivising the take-up of electric vehicles over the coming decade will be vital in moving Ireland to a sustainable growth path and it recommended an assessment of the adequacy of the current electric vehicle charging network.

Plans to minimise commuting in the future will also be crucial, the report highlighted.

The Climate Change Advisory Council is an independent statutory body, established under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. Its role is to review national climate policy and advise government on how Ireland can move to a low carbon, climate resilient economy and society by 2050.