An Taisce condemned the Irish Government’s role in critically undermining the EU’s efforts to tackle climate change.

Loopholes to emissions legislation were introduced to benefit countries who are unwilling to take the necessary steps to cut emissions in certain sectors, such as agriculture and transport, according to An Taisce.

Wednesday’s announcement on the effort sharing decision means Ireland will be obliged to reduce emissions by 30% relative to those of 2005, according to the new calculations, a reduction on the previous scheme.

The European Commission has agreed to include a specific ‘land use’ clause, which will allow countries to offset the environmentally-friendly use of land and afforestation against their emissions target.

Ireland has been granted flexibility worth 5.6%, the maximum available, more than any other member state.

However, if the proposed ‘flexibilities’ arising from forestry and Emission Trading System allowances are fully exploited, the target will effectively reduce to only 20.4%, almost unchanged from the 20% reduction target previously agreed to be achieved by 2020, according to An Taisce.

Professor Barry McMullin, a member of An Taisce’s climate change committee, was critical of the EU Commission’s and Ireland’s attitude toward global warming and reducing emissions.

“The Irish government and business interests have lobbied hard to reduce the level of national action required, benefiting the agricultural sector in particular. However, this will only increase the effort required by other sectors and by other nations.

“By failing to grasp the scale and urgency of response now needed, the EU Commission and the Irish Government are increasing economic, health and security costs for the public now and in the future,” McMullin said.

Planting the right kinds of trees in the right places is part of a good environmental policy, but carbon sequestration in forestry, soils and grassland will not reduce the effects of climate change unless radical cuts in energy and agriculture emissions are also being implemented, according to McMullin.

“Claiming forestry and soil offsets while peat continues to be strip-mined in Ireland for electricity, home heating and horticulture is a deeply hypocritical and dishonest land use policy.

“Halting peat extraction, therefore, needs to be an immediate climate action priority,” McMullin said.