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Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan Alamy Stock Photo

Ireland three years past deadline to send long-term climate strategy to European Union

The government has repeatedly fallen short of promises to get the important strategy finished.

IRELAND HAS FAILED again to publish a long-term climate strategy planning out the country’s approach to the climate crisis, three years after an EU deadline to do so.

The Department of Environment plans to submit a draft strategy to the European Commission in the first quarter of this year, The Journal has learned.

However, the government has repeatedly fallen short of previous promises to get the strategy finished, including a commitment in November to complete the process by the end of 2022.

Additionally, it does not expect to submit the final version of the strategy to the Commission until the last quarter of 2023.

13 months turns to 3 years

In 2018, a European Union Regulation set out that member states should develop 30-year strategies laying down how they plan to tackle the climate crisis to help fulfil EU requirements under the crucial Paris Agreement.

Member states were given 13 months to compile their strategies and submit them to the European Commission by 1 January 2020.

Three years later, Ireland is one of only four of the bloc’s 27 countries to have failed to submit its strategy. The only other countries to have not yet produced their long-term strategies are Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.

The annex of actions for last year’s Climate Action Plan listed the completion of the strategy at the top of a list of hundreds of measures.

Although the plan suggested a timeframe under which the strategy would be completed within the first three months of 2022, the document still did not materialise.

A progress report in November said that a draft had been prepared and sent for review to the Senior Officials’ Group, a committee made up of representatives from all government departments with responsibility for monitoring progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. 

It detailed that a “further and final iteration” which would take the group’s feedback into account, as well as the finalised sectoral emissions ceilings, would be submitted to the European Commission by the end of the year.

But three years on from the initial deadline of 1 January 2020, the Commission has still not received Ireland’s strategy.

A spokesperson for the Department of Environment told The Journal: “Ireland will submit its draft Long-term Strategy to the Commission in Q1 2023. The final submission will be in Q4 2023.

“Submission of the strategy to the European Commission has been deferred slightly to ensure that it fully aligns with the Climate Action Plan 2023, published in December 2022,” the spokesperson said.

This will ensure that the strategy serves its intended purpose and makes the strongest possible contribution to the overall European Union ambition.”

The delay comes despite the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) warning in 2021 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 national strategies must address emissions reductions and removals (in total and by sector), expected progress on transitioning to a low-emissions economy, the expected socioeconomic impacts of decarbonisation, and links to other national long-term policies.

The Commission also said that member states should develop the strategies “in an open and transparent manner and ensure opportunities for the public to participate”.

Countries will be asked to develop a new long-term climate strategy every 10 years, with the next iterations due by 1 January 2029.

Climate crisis

The EU’s climate plans are guided by the international Paris Agreement, which in 2015 called for countries to try to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and not to allow it to surpass 2 degrees.

Global surface temperatures are expected to exceed 1.5 and 2 degrees unless “deep reductions” are made to emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.  

A new study published this week found evidence that there is a high probability of global warming reaching 2 degrees Celsius by the middle of the century.

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.

The scale of recent changes to the climate are “unprecedented” over hundreds and thousands of years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and it is “unequivocal” that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.

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