Carbon credits cost €87m in fight to meet global warming promises
Ireland has spent almost €90m buying 'carbon credits' from other countries to avoid breaching global warming commitments.
The Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told the State had already used up €86.8m in carbon credits acquired from other countries to comply with existing green house gas emissions agreements.
However, Seán Fleming TD, chairman of the Dáil watchdog body, branded this use of taxpayers' money "horrific" and said such measures effectively misled people over Ireland's actual compliance with carbon emission targets and the global campaign to tackle climate change.
Mr Fleming said it was tantamount to hypocrisy to use such measures to give the impression that Ireland was complying with agreed emissions goals.
He said it was effectively portraying Ireland as more successful in achieving such climate protection targets than was actually the case.
The PAC was told that, on current assessments, the Department of the Environment estimates Ireland could have to purchase a further €13m in carbon credits to adhere to emissions commitments.
Further penalties could be imposed over shortfalls in renewable energy targets.
"This is basically a pretence that we are coming in on [emissions] targets," Mr Fleming said.
Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions targets have come under increasing pressure through the slower than expected roll-out of renewable energy supplies and the impact of a dramatic increase in the size of the national cattle herd following the abolition of milk quotas.
Environmental experts stressed the expansion of the national cattle herd has greater implications for Ireland in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than existing home heating systems.
"The bottom line here is that if we (Ireland) don't meet our targets we buy our way out of the problem," Mr Fleming said.
Under EU regulations, a member state which is in danger of breaching emissions targets can purchase carbon credits from other member states.
The credits were purchased to date by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) to a total value of €86.8m - though this could soar above €100m if Ireland threatens to further exceed its targets.
If the State does not purchase the carbon credits, it risks heavy EU fines.
Ireland had also committed to achieving a 16pc energy supply from renewable sources by 2020 but is now battling to achieve 13pc by next year.
The PAC chairman said it was vital the public understand the current position both in respect of the environment and the state of the national approach to tackling global warming.
"It is a charade what we are doing in this country," Mr Fleming said.
"We are buying unused credit emissions from other countries to balance our books and pretend we are coming in under target."
Mr Fleming warned that if Ireland was having to rely on buying carbon credits to avoid emissions fines it was clear that the national approach to reducing greenhouse gases and tackling climate change was simply not working as planned.
He stressed that it was vital an accurate picture was provided for the public.
Ireland could now also face penalties for failing to achieve specific goals in terms of sustainable energy targets.