€21.8bn on climate action signals drive to steer us away from oil
Some €21.8bn has been set aside by the Government to help the State adapt to climate change and develop a low-carbon economy, almost 20pc of the entire budget under the National Development Plan.
Some 450,000 homes will be retro-fitted over the next decade, another 170,000 will have heat pumps installed, the electric car charging network will be expanded and a target of having 500,000 electric vehicles on the roads by 2030 is included.
Buses and trains will also be greener - from July next year, no diesel-only buses will be purchased. Instead, they will be electric or hybrid. Irish Rail has also been given the green light to purchase 300 hybrid rail carriages, which will facilitate expansion of the Dart network.
But there are concerns that the plan isn't ambitious enough. The Government says that Moneypoint will continue to use coal to generate power until 2025, while peat-fired power stations will remain in use until 2030. The three plants generate almost 6.4 million tonnes of carbon every year, exacerbating climate change. Experts indicate that while the plants could not be turned off tomorrow due to concerns about security of supply, they could be decommissioned in a far shorter timeframe. Political considerations around job losses in the Midlands are likely to have led to the extended timetable.
The climate plan will be largely funded from the commercial semi-States including the ESB. The Exchequer will contribute €7.6bn, and the semi-States some €14.2bn. Many of the measures are already known, including a ban on sales of petrol and diesel-only cars from 2030, investment in major public transport systems including Bus Connects in Dublin, Metro and Dart, which total €7bn, and expansion of the national walking and cycling network, including the Greenways.
But there are new initiatives, including a pledge that all public buildings and one-third of private buildings be upgraded to at least a 'B' energy rating, a decision that no petrol or diesel car will receive a NCT certificate from 2045, and pilot projects to generate gas from food and agricultural waste.
A €500m climate action fund is also included, which will focus on projects which can attract private finance. In a somewhat ironic twist, it will be part-funded through the levy imposed to cover the cost of providing a strategic reserve of oil. The Government has also confirmed the €1bn Celtic Interconnector will go ahead. This sub-sea line will allow power to be traded between Ireland and France. The €1m smart metering programme is also confirmed.
Sustainable Nation Ireland said the €21.8bn fund was "significant", and would lead to private investment in the climate space. Chief executive Stephen Nolan said private sector capital would need to be mobilised at scale, and would help grow Ireland's profile as a global hub for green finance. Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said while he welcomed the plan, "we don't think the aspirations are met by the specifics".