The government has today (Tuesday, March 23) approved the final text of legislation to set Ireland “on the path to net zero emissions no later than 2050” and to reduce emissions by 51% by the end of this decade.

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill, which is a key commitment in the Programme for Government, will now progress through the Houses of the Oireachtas as priority legislation.

The final version of the bill embeds the process of “setting binding and ambitious emissions reduction targets in law”.

Carbon budgets

The bill provides that the first two five-year carbon budgets proposed by the Climate Change Advisory Council should equate to a total reduction of 51% over the period to 2030, relative to a baseline of 2018.

The government must adopt carbon budgets that are consistent with the Paris Agreement and other international obligations.

All forms of greenhouse gas emissions, including biogenic methane, will be included in the carbon budgets. However, it is up to government to decide on the trajectories for different sectors.

The government will determine, following consultation, how to apply the carbon budgets across the relevant sectors, and what each sector will contribute in a given five-year period.

Climate Action Plans

Actions for each sector will be detailed in the ‘Climate Action Plan’, which must be updated annually.

Government ministers will be responsible for achieving the legally-binding targets for their own sectoral area with each minister accounting for their performance towards sectoral targets and actions before an Oireachtas committee each year.

Local authorities must prepare individual Climate Action Plans which will include both mitigation and adaptation measures and will be updated every five years.

‘Landmark day for Ireland’

Taoiseach Micheál Martin described today as a “landmark day for Ireland”.

“We all know that climate change is already happening, and the time to act is now,” he said.

The bill we are publishing affirms our ambition to be a global leader in this field. As we begin our journey towards net zero emissions, the government is committed to tackling the challenges, and embracing the opportunities this transition can bring our economy, our society and our country.

“We must continue to act across government, as there is no time to waste when it comes to securing our future.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar added that “we must ensure that the road to recovery is a sustainable one”.

“I am confident that the decarbonisation of the economy will present significant opportunities for Irish business, for trade and for new employment,” he said.

“Whether that be in the huge expansion of entire industries, such as retrofitting or offshore wind, or new jobs in clean-tech, the early movers with the most ambition will see the greatest opportunities.”

2021 Climate Action Plan

The preparation of the 2021 Climate Action Plan will involve a public consultation. The government is inviting everyone to join the ‘climate conversation’.

It is asking climate scientists, experts and industry to share data-based technical proposals to support development of the plan, and it also wants to hear from households and communities about what government can do to further support them as part of Ireland’s journey to net zero.

The consultation will remain open until 5:00pm on May 18, 2021. Following this, it is expected that the plan will be published during the summer.