What are ‘carbon budgets’ that agriculture will be set under the new climate bill?

Now that it has been clarified that there will not be emission targets for agriculture in the new climate bill, the focus now shifts to the ‘carbon budgets’ that will be in place for sectors instead.

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2020 was published this week (Wednesday, October 7) and there have been many questions about what it will mean for agriculture.

Also Read: Climate bill does not set emission targets for agriculture – department

There are no numbers mentioned in relation to the carbon budgets as of yet, but it is known that, while overall methane levels need to reduce out to 2050, biogenic methane does not need to go to zero, and can be balanced by sinks, according to the bill.

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has defined carbon budgets as the following:

“The bill establishes a system of carbon budgeting with three five-year economy-wide budgets included in each budget programme. The budgets will include all greenhouse gases.

Each five-year carbon budget will allocate emissions ceilings to all relevant sectors, known as ‘decarbonisation target ranges’. The first three budgets will cover the period 2021-2025; 2026-2030 and 2031-2035.

According to the department, there is a ‘decarbonisation target range’.

This will allocate emissions ceilings to each relevant sector within the overall ceiling of the five-year carbon budget.

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, currently Eamon Ryan, in consultation with other relevant ministers, will develop decarbonisation target ranges for each relevant sector within each five-year budget, once the overall carbon budget has been adopted.

Who monitors compliance with carbon budgets?

The Environmental Protection Agency’s annual greenhouse gas reports and the Climate Change Advisory Council annual report will inform the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action on national and sectoral progress towards climate targets.

Each year, when published, relevant ministers will be required to give account annually to an Oireachtas Committee on the following matters: performance both in implementing Climate Action Plan actions and in adhering to their sector’s decarbonisation target range within the ceiling of the carbon budget.

Where ministers are not in compliance with the targets, they will need to outline what corrective measures are envisaged. Ministers will have to attend the committee and respond to any recommendations made by the committee within three months. This ‘comply or explain’ approach will “ensure greater oversight is provided”.