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Leo are Varadkar and Environment Minister Richard Bruton at the launch of the Climate Action Plan last month. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ireland completely off course regarding climate change targets, watchdog warns

The Climate Change Advisory Council has called for additional measures to be introduced to help Ireland reduce its emissions.

IRELAND REMAINS COMPLETELY off course to meet its target to reduce carbon emission by 2020 and 2030, an independent advisory group has warned. 

In its Annual Review 2019, the Climate Change Advisory Council has called for additional measures to be introduced to help Ireland reduce its emissions.

These include a reduction in the national herd, an increase in carbon tax, and to put an end to burning of coal at the Moneypoint power plant by 2025, among other measures.

There has been a growing awareness and public disquiet in Ireland over the countries greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which contribute to increasing global temperatures and climate change. 

In June the Government published its Climate Action Plan, which contained a series of measures to help Ireland meet its targets for reducing emissions by 2030.

While the plan was welcomed in some quarters, many experts and opposition figures criticised it for not going far enough and that Ireland was still on track to fail to meet its targets, and faces heavy fines as a result. 

The report

The Council said that it had given particular attention to Ireland’s agricultural sector in its Annual Review. Agriculture is Ireland’s single biggest contributor to GHG emissions, at 33% of the total. 

There were calls to reduce the national suckler (beef) herd, which the Council says could “support alternative land uses – such as afforestation – raise farm incomes and reduce exposure of the sector to external market shocks”.

The Council also called for a detailed plan to be published to achieve its commitment  to end the burning of coal at Moneypoint by 2025.

“The recently published Climate Action Plan 2019 has proposals for a wide range of measures and new governance arrangements which would enable us to achieve our 2030 targets.

Implementation in a cost-effective manner is critical to realise the ambitions set out in the Plan,” said Professor John FitzGerald, chair of the Council. 

The Council is an independent statutory body, established under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 whose role it is to review national climate policy.

Responding to the Council report, Minister Bruton said that it hadn’t yet evaluated the government’s climate plan but soon will and “I look forward to their input into this plans as it is evolving”.

“And if we get input from the advisory council, who will be given a stronger statutory role in the future, we will be very much heeding that,” he said. 

So the way in which we will be heeding this plan is taking feedback, also monitoring impact.

Bruton said that the Council was referring to the the government’s 2020 emissions targets when it said it was off course.

“He’s saying that the 2020 target, which was to see reductions by 20% in our emissions, we will not deliver that,” he said.

“Present forecasts suggest we will only deliver 5% of that target, we will be down by only 1%, so we are completely off target.

“The truth is that when the economy crashed, we appeared to be off target, but when the recovery started to occur, we had failed to create the link between prosperity and emissions.

That’s why in agriculture, in transport, in buildings, we have concrete proposals to break that connection and change that for the future.

With reporting from Christina Finn

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