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Sunday 29 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Sam Boal Eamon Ryan speaking to reporters outside Dublin Castle earlier this year.
# Greenhouse Gases
Emissions limits for sectors due to be signed off before Dáil summer recess
The legally binding limits will set out the total emissions allowed from different sectors such as electricity and agriculture.

LEGALLY BINDING LIMITS for greenhouse gas emissions from sectors such as agriculture and electricity are expected to be agreed by government next month. 

Ireland has a number of climate targets in place all centred around the requirement to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050. 

The country agreed its first carbon budgets earlier this year which set out an overall limit on emissions that the country must stay under to reach crucial climate goals. 

Sectoral emissions ceilings – which will set a limit on emissions from different sectors over a certain time period – are currently being discussed within government departments.

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan will put forward a plan to government for approval in the coming weeks. 

A department official said it is envisaged the sectoral ceilings will be signed off before the Dáil summer recess which is due to begin in mid-July. 

The combined emissions limits between sectors will amount to the overall carbon budgets for certain time periods. 

The first carbon budget covering 2021 to 2025, for example, allows for a total of 295 million tonnes (Mt) of emissions to be produced.

So agriculture, electricity and the other sectors will receive a certain portion of this budget up to 2025. 

Each minister will be accountable for the emissions from their sector.

Even if the country achieves its overall goals in the years ahead, sectors will still be seen as non-compliant if they do not stay within their individual targets once they are signed off. 

The government’s Climate Action Plan from 2021 already set out different emissions reduction targets for sectors.

The agriculture sector, responsible for the most GHG emissions, was targeted with the lowest reduction of 22% to 30% by 2030. 

President of the Irish Farmers’ Association Tim Cullinan said farmers “fully realise” that emissions need to be reduced. 

“Already farmers have done quite a lot,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland today. 

“We need to find a balance here because you have climate change and you have food production.”

Cullinan said he has a number of concerns he wants the government to address.

These include the economic and social role of agriculture in rural Ireland, how biogenic methane is treated and addressing the importance of food production. 

Different targets heading for the same goal

All of the different emissions targets fall under the wider goals of the Climate Act from last year. 

Climate science shows urgent action is needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the many impacts of global warming. 

The sectoral ceilings being decided at the moment will set emissions limits for electricity, transport, buildings, industry, agriculture and transport. 

Civil servants across government departments have been meeting to work out the exact details of these limits. 

A department official said the talks have been cooperative and positive. 

The discussions are considering a number of factors including the cost of emissions reduction, limits of what each sector can achieve and fairness in how fast each sector can reduce emissions. 

Ministers must appear before an Oireachtas committee if their sector fails to comply with emissions limits down the line. 

Failure to comply with the sectoral ceilings could also result in fines from the EU for not hitting wider targets. 

A department official said these fines would be paid from the budget of the minister whose sector failed to comply with the budgets.

Minister Eamon Ryan said earlier this month that “detailed technical analysis” is being carried out to inform and support the decision-making process of the sectoral emissions ceilings. 

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