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Sectoral Ceilings

Any sector could be asked to cut emissions further to absorb unallocated reductions - minister

No sector has yet been responsible for a total of 5.25 megatonnes of emissions.

THE MINISTER FOR Climate has said that every sector could potentially be asked to cut emissions further to absorb as-yet unallocated reductions.

Minister Eamon Ryan defended the government’s decision to leave some emissions cuts that must be made to meet Ireland’s national targets unallocated to any area of society in the breakdown that it outlined this summer.

While sector-by-sector targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions were announced earlier in July, no sector was made responsible yet for a total of 5.25 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent (Mt CO2eq).

The government also chose to defer a target for land-use and forestry by 18 months pending a land-use strategy.

Appearing before the Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action this afternoon, Minister Ryan said that every sector potentially could be required to further cut emissions when the rest of the reduction is distributed.

He said he believed it was “absolutely appropriate” for the government to wait to allocate the emissions.

The minister said that revised scientific information received “at the last minute” indicated that emissions from the land-use sector were closer to seven million tonnes than the previous understanding of 4.8 million.

“I think it was absolutely appropriate in those circumstances not to rush through or to try to conclude on that scientific evidence as to the quantity of further emissions reductions or further reducing the source of emissions from the land-use sector,” he told the committee. 

The sectoral emissions ceilings were a major source of political debate as the Dáil began its summer recess.

The reduction in the agriculture sector’s emissions was a particular point of contention as the industry, backed by some politicians, tried to push for a low target. 

Discussions at Cabinet and between the coalition leaders, as well as the agriculture minister, eventually settled on the following reductions:

  • Electricity – 75%
  • Transport – 50%
  • Commercial and public buildings – 45%
  • Residential Buildings – 40%
  • Industry – 35%
  • Agriculture – 25%
  • Others (including petroleum refining and waste) – 50% 

They also chose at that time to defer the target for land-use and forestry by 18 months and left 5.25 Mt CO2eq unallocated.

“5.25 MtCO2eq of annual emissions reductions are currently unallocated on an economy-wide basis for the second carbon budget period (2026-2030). These will be allocated following a mid-term review and identification of additional abatement measures,” a government statement said. 

Concerns have been raised since about the unallocated reduction and whether the government is risking an overreliance on technologies that are not yet available or in existence.

“I think it’s absolutely appropriate for us to complete and to use the land use review, which we’re doing, which will give us a much better understanding… particularly in the managing of wetlands and management of bogs, forestry, and grasslands,” Minister Ryan said today.

“I think in those circumstances it was absolutely appropriate to wait for the final allocation or to have a category which we said was pending the conclusion of such review, and then, as we committed to in the Programme for Government, to adjust the allocations accordingly as soon as we have the relevant information and we’re working flat out on that.”

“In terms of the further adjustments to the budgets, the reallocations, every sector potentially will have to or could play a part in that.

“It does require us to have an understanding to complete the land-use review, because that’ll give us a better idea of what the quantum is in that particular sector and then we’ll have better idea of what is potentially required elsewhere.”

He said he believed the government’s approach was better than “just pretending” to have the answer.

Earlier this month, the Climate Change Advisory Council described the announcement of the sectoral targets as a “welcome milestone” but one that fell short of important markers.

In its annual report, the Council said that the “targets announced do not provide all of the necessary clarity in terms of how the carbon budgets are allocated at a sectoral level, how the overall target of 51% reduction by 2030 will be met, or how the Land Use Sector will be included in meeting the targets”.

“As presently expressed the quantified emissions reductions only amount to a reduction of 42% excluding the Land Use Sector and are therefore not consistent with the objective in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act,” the report detailed.

“Whilst these targets are a useful starting point, they will need to be revised upwards and monitored closely in the light of experience.”

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland and internationally is a crucial measure to limit global temperature rises and prevent further devastation to the planet caused by climate change.

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