Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 March 2018

'Carbon neutrality goal in agriculture must to be defined and policies put in place to achieve it'

Photo: Jennifer Huls
Photo: Jennifer Huls
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Ireland is not on track to meet its 2020 targets or to decarbonise its economy by 2050, according to the Climate Change Advisory Council’s first Annual Review.

It said that the provisional greenhouse gas emissions data released recently by the EPA show continued increases in emissions across the Irish economy in 2016 and that the pace and scale of greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed to be accelerated across all sectors of the Irish economy.

“The actions in the current National Mitigation Plan do not put Ireland on a pathway to achieve our 2020 targets or our long term decarbonisation objective,” said Chair of the Council, Professor John FitzGerald.

The Council emphasised that the agriculture sector needed to urgently adopt and implement all cost-effective measures.

The goal of carbon neutrality in the agriculture sector needs to be defined and policies put in place to achieve it.

The Council’s Review of the emissions data shows that Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 3.7pc in 2015, illustrating that Ireland’s economy and emissions have not been decoupled, with emissions increasing across all key sectors.

The Council’s first Annual Review considered national greenhouse gas inventory data from 1990-2015. The Review states that if Ireland does not introduce major new policies and measures it will miss its 2020 targets and, on its current trajectory, will also miss the proposed 2030 EU target and the objective of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide by at least 80pc by 2050.

While the Review found some progress had been made in the built environment and the energy sectors, Professor FitzGerald said: “Ireland is still over-reliant on fossil fuels. For example, Ireland has the third highest emissions per capita for residential energy use in the EU, reflecting high dependence on oil, coal and peat.

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"This has significant implications for both greenhouse gas emissions and air quality, and it has significant negative impacts on health. A clear medium-term strategy to phase out fossil fuels in the electricity, transport and residential sectors is required.

“There is an urgent requirement for new policies and measures, and action beyond what is committed to in the National Mitigation Plan if Ireland is to reduce emissions by 2020 and to move onto a sustainable path to 2050 to tackle climate change,” said Professor FitzGerald.

He said that these new measures should include a substantial increase in the carbon tax, and a phasing out of coal and peat for both residential heating and power generation.

"In particular, the subsidy for peat-fired electricity generation should be ended. In transport, investments in public transport fleets should avoid fossil fuel lock-in while overall capital investment should be rebalanced away from roads towards public transport,” said Professor FitzGerald.

The Council said incentivising the take-up of electric vehicles over the coming decade will be vital in moving Ireland to a sustainable growth path and it recommended an assessment of the adequacy of the current electric vehicle charging network.

The Council is an independent statutory body, established under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015.

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