Alan Matthews: 'How to move from our current land use structure to one that is compatible with our climate targets'
There has been a dramatic ramping up of interest in climate policy in the past two months. At the beginning of October, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report underlined the acute nature of climate change, calling for immediate action.
Richard Bruton, following his appointment as Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment to succeed Denis Naughten, has declared his ambition to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change, not a follower.
The Cabinet has now given its approval for the preparation of a new climate plan to replace the National Mitigation Plan published in July 2017. This was widely seen as failing to provide the necessary roadmap to a low-carbon society by 2050. Part of the context is the growing awareness of the cost to the economy of the failure to meet EU climate targets in 2020 and the following decade.
This new climate plan is required as part of the preparation of a draft National Energy and Climate Plan which must be submitted to the European Commission by the end of this year. It must set out detailed policy measures to demonstrate that Ireland is doing its part to meet EU energy and climate targets. The final plan will be developed in an iterative process with the Commission in the course of 2019.
The special Oireachtas committee on climate change, which was set up in July to consider the report and recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly on how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change, has also been taking evidence from a wide range of stakeholders.
In early November, it heard evidence from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on the steps it was taking to address greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector. The committee is expected to report its conclusions and recommendations to both houses of the Oireachtas by January 31, 2019.
Despite the failure to increase the carbon tax in the recent budget, the Government accepts that a higher carbon tax will be part of its future climate plan, but it seeks all-party support.
This paper's Environment Correspondent reported last week that the Oireachtas climate change committee might be tasked with setting a carbon price for 2030 and considering how it would be reached; assessing its impact on households and businesses and considering how the revenue would be redistributed.