Ireland is completely off course to achieve its 2020 and 2030 climate change targets, according to the Climate Change Advisory Council’s Annual Review 2018.
Following on from last year’s Annual Review, Ireland is now in an even worse position. Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions increased again in 2016, with the projections of emissions to 2035 showing that we are completely off course in addressing the challenge of climate change, said Chair of the Council, Professor John FitzGerald.
“Instead of achieving the required 1m tonne per annum reduction in carbon dioxide emissions consistent with the National Policy Position, Ireland is currently increasing emissions at a rate of 2m tonnes per year. We need immediate and urgent action to put us back onto a pathway to achieve transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and sustainable economy and society.”
In the absence of a definition of neutrality within the agriculture and land use sector, it is not possible to provide a detailed assessment of progress towards the national policy objective. Nevertheless, given the observed increase in agriculture emissions and ongoing carbon losses from land use, the sector is not on a trajectory to achieve the national transition objective, the review states.
Annual agriculture emissions increased by 2.7pc in 2016, and increased by 4.5pc relative to 2014, the review says and emissions are projected to increase further.
This has largely been driven by the industry taking advantage of market opportunities arising from the removal of quotas on dairy production, in line with Food Wise 2025.
All land uses should be included in mitigation options, it says and policies and practices to maintain and enhance carbon stocks are needed as part of the overall achievement of an approach to neutrality.
"The role of forest land is clear. National policy on forestry is largely consistent with enhancing the national carbon stocks as well as sustainable resource management. In the period 2006 to 2015, the average annual rate of increase in forest was 5,820 hectares per year. In 2016, forest area increased by 6,290 hectares.
"This rate of increase in forest area is less than that required to achieve the long-term objective of 18pc national coverage by mid-century."
Current estimates of the change in carbon stocks on agricultural soils indicate a large net source of emissions due to the drainage of peat for use as grazing lands, it also says, while activities on non-agricultural peatlands continue to represent a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. The increase is largely driven by ongoing peat extraction for domestic heating, electricity generation and horticultural use and drainage to enable grassland and forestry activities.
The review calls for an appropriate national land use policy to help move land management to a more sustainable pathway.
"This must also address emerging demands from the bio-economy and renewable energy, as well as more conventional demands on land, such as agriculture, forestry, built environment, habitat and ecosystem services."
The Council believes that the current level of the carbon tax in Ireland and the price of carbon in the EU Emissions Trading System are insufficient to achieve our climate target targets and objectives, said Professor FitzGerald.
In the Council’s Annual Review 2018, the Council recommends an initial increase in the carbon tax to €30 per tonne in Budget 2019 as an essential component of achieving low-carbon transition. The Council further recommends that Ireland work with other European countries to introduce a regional carbon price floor in the electricity sector to support decarbonisation.
“We have an opportunity to address Ireland’s reliance on fossil fuels in our economy, and encourage innovation and change of behaviour in businesses and households towards greener and more efficient energy solutions. The Council recommends that any increase in carbon taxation should be accompanied by measures to address any negative impacts of carbon taxation on poorer households.”
The Council welcomes the Government’s commitment to end the burning of coal at Moneypoint by 2025. However, the Council is concerned that planned support for biomass co-fired with peat has the effect of supporting the continued burning of peat for electricity generation.
This contributes to higher emissions. Public funding could be better spent supporting real emissions reduction and the low carbon transition of fossil fuel dependent communities.
The Council is an independent statutory body, established under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. Its role is to review national climate policy and advise government on how Ireland can move to a low carbon, climate resilient economy and society by 2050.
A national drive to get extensive livestock farmers to grow more silage this autumn for those who are short of fodder was called for by stakeholders at Inter-Agency Fodder Committee last week.