Tuesday 20 August 2019

'Urgent action' needed as we are set to fall short of climate change targets

Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

THE Government needs to take “urgent action” if Ireland is to meet its national and international climate change targets.

A statutory body that advises on national policy has also raised “major concerns” over what it describes as opposition to the deployment of renewable energy.

The annual review of the Climate Change Advisory Council said key areas which are not being addressed under current development plans include coasts, housing and planning.

Ireland’s target for 2020 to reduce greenhouse emissions by 20pc, compared with 2005 levels, could fall short and reach just 5pc instead.

The council said urgent action was needed if national, EU and international targets are to be meet by 2020 and 2030.

Professor John FitzgGerald, chair of the council, said awareness of the need to tackle climate change remains low – despite weather significantly affecting Irish society and the economy.

“The impacts of climate change often seem distant from everyday life, but we have experienced several extreme weather events in recent years which have exposed the vulnerabilities of our society and economy,” he said.

“Despite these events, awareness of the need for adaptation remains low. Adaptation is not only a matter for Government but will require a response by households and the business sector.”

The council made a wide range of recommendations in its annual review including advice on the State’s current climate obligations and future greenhouse gas emissions.

One key recommendation is that the carbon tax should be increased to €35 per tonne in Budget 2020, and then be raised further to at least €80 per tonne by 2030.

A significant target that Ireland is set to miss is in greenhouse gas emissions.

The target under the Effort Sharing Decision – part of the EU’s climate and energy policy framework – is a 20pc reduction in such emissions by next year, compared with 2005 levels.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions projections indicate that a reduction of between just 5pc and 6pc will be achieved by 2020.

The council has also advised that tenants who may be displaced if a landlord is required to carry out energy upgrades should be compensated.

The review describes this particular aspect of upgrades as a concern and not ideal, given the “strained rental market”.

“The Government may need to consider compensation for tenants as part of any proposed grant scheme, such as temporary housing,” the council said.

“Further, existing regulations permit landlords to raise rent (or evict tenants) to undertake significant upgrades to a dwelling.”

It says “significant upgrades” is not clearly defined. “The council recommends that Government considers including requirements to improve energy efficiency as a component of a ‘significant upgrade’,” it added.

The issue is described as “complex” but the council says it provides an opportunity to address the housing crisis and energy efficiency simultaneously.

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