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THE MORNING LEAD

Delayed climate strategy to come before Cabinet amid EU infringement proceedings

The EU has taken the first step of a legal process against Ireland over failure to submit a long-term climate strategy due three years ago.

IRELAND’S LONG-TERM CLIMATE strategy is set to be brought to Cabinet in the coming weeks amid ongoing EU infringement proceedings over a three-year delay.

The government has failed to date to produce a long-term climate strategy planning out the national approach to the climate crisis for the next 30 years which was meant to be completed in January 2020.

In 2018, an EU Regulation set out that member states needed to develop long-term strategies to help fulfil the bloc’s international climate requirements and to submit them to the European Commission by the start of 2020.

Ireland is now one of the only EU member states to have not obliged with the regulation.

The Journal reported last week that Ireland had still not submitted the strategy to the Commission despite multiple promises last year that it would be completed at various points of 2022.

The Department of Environment told The Journal that it plans to submit a draft to the Commission by the end of March and a final version in the last three months of the year.

In September, the European Commission opened formal infrigement proceedings against Ireland and the other three members due to the continued delay.

The Commission is the branch of the EU with responsibility for monitoring that European laws are applied correctly and on time. It has the power to take legal action against a member state that is not applying or complying with EU laws, fails to notify the Commission of necessary measures on time, or infringes on EU treaties, regulations or decisions.

If a member state continues not to comply after a formal notification process, the Commission can refer the country to the EU Court of Justice – though around 90% of infringement cases end before any court referral is made. 

The action over the delayed strategy is the only one currently active against Ireland in the policy area of climate action, but there are 45 active cases in the area of the environment, many of which concern compliance with laws linked to water, air, nature and waste.

In a statement to The Journal, a Commission official said that “in view of the substantial delay of Bulgaria, Ireland, Poland and Romania in notifying their long-term strategies, the Commission opened formal infringement proceedings and sent letters of formal notice on 20 September 2022″.

“The case has been closed for Bulgaria, which has since submitted its strategy, but the other three infringement proceedings are ongoing. The Commission will consider the next steps according to further developments.”

When asked for a response, a spokesperson for the Department of Environment said that an updated draft of the strategy will be brought to Cabinet for approval in the coming weeks before submission to the EU.

A public consultation is also to be held on the strategy.

“Ireland responded to the European Commission’s letter of formal notice stating that the submission of Ireland’s Long-Term Strategy had been paused to ensure that it aligns fully with domestic climate ambition and with Climate Action Plan 2023,” the department spokesperson told The Journal.

“Ireland undertook to continue to engage with the Commission on this matter and reiterated our commitment to long-term climate action and the submission of a robust and ambitious Long-term Strategy that reflects the level of our ambition.

“The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications has prepared an updated draft Long-Term Strategy which it will bring to Cabinet in the coming weeks, seeking approval to submit the draft Strategy to the Commission. This will be followed by a public consultation.”

In 2021, the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) warned the government in its annual report that it was concerned, in the absence of the strategy, about the potential for “higher cost implications of delay in long-term action”.

The European Commission has outlined that “stable long-term strategies are crucial to help achieve the economic transformation needed and broader sustainable development goals”.

They are also crucial, it said, to moving “towards the long-term goal set by the Paris Agreement – holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”.

The strategies are one element of the EU’s efforts to meet its requirements under the Paris Agreement, a major climate deal struck in 2015 directing countries to try to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and not to allow it to surpass 2 degrees.

Currently, the world is around 1.1 degrees warmer than pre-industrial times and is already experiencing impacts of the climate crisis such as heatwaves, droughts and melting ice sheets.

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