The Irish Times view on Ireland’s climate strategy: falling further behind target

The State has made little progress towards lowering emissions over the past year - and 2030 targets are quickly becoming impossible to achieve

Failure to deliver in a timely fashion what are regarded as the right measures and strong policies on climate action across almost every sector of the economy must be a wake-up call for the Government. The latest EPA carbon emissions projections out to 2030 show that Ireland is likely to achieve just 29 per cent of a reduction compared to 51 per cent required under legally binding carbon budgets up to the end of the decade. This is a best-case scenario and assumes a wide range of new actions are fully implemented with resourcing and legislative backing.

Ireland is, in effect, stalled on the road to lower emissions. The EPA analysis indicates little if any progress over the past year. Decarbonisation needs to exceed 12 per cent annually; last year it is estimated to be less than 5 per cent with the only advances being use of renewables in power generation and retrofitting buildings.

Compounding matters is the requirement to carry over cuts not achieved in the 2021-2025 period into the 2026-2030 carbon budget, which severely limits options for the next government, not to mention the risk of stunting economic activity and heightening the prospect of multibillion compliance costs and fines under EU obligations.

Minister for Climate and Energy Eamon Ryan brought three memos to Cabinet this week, starting with a shocking outline of the latest scientific evidence at global level, and detailing likely consequences for Ireland if a range of climate tipping points are reached. A revised National Energy and Climate Plan for Ireland, required by the EU, was approved, including “additional measures” not modelled by the EPA because of lack of detail about their deployment.

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These have also been added to the Government’s 2024 national climate action plan, including a long-awaited biomethane strategy cleared by Cabinet that will see deployment of anaerobic digesters of grass and organic wastes on many farms. Production of biogas is a cheaper clean alternative to imported fossil gas.

While setting up this new energy sector will be capital intensive and entails land use change away from traditional food production, it can be a substantial new income stream for farmers, while reducing the pollution threat from run-off of slurries into waterways. It also helps solve the crux facing heat-intensive industries and data centres which are desperately seeking a clean alternative to fossil fuels.

Ryan acknowledged that the EPA analysis shows more needs to be done at a faster pace, insisting those additional measures if implemented would close the gap to the 51 per cent target. He and his ministerial colleagues must heed more indications that the window to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 is closing rapidly, though there is still time for the world to get on track if decisive action is taken now in the common good.

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