Monday 16 September 2019

Taxpayer to be hit with €100m bill for failure to act on climate change

Extreme weather events: A search and rescue dog looks for human remains after the fires in Paradise, California. Photo: John Locher/AP
Extreme weather events: A search and rescue dog looks for human remains after the fires in Paradise, California. Photo: John Locher/AP
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

The State faces paying a €100m bill in just over two years' time for failing to meet legally binding climate change targets.

Failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a 2020 deadline is expected to incur a bill ranging from €6m to €13m, while a shortfall in achieving renewable energy targets could cost up to €90m.

Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton last night said the Cabinet had approved plans to buy allowances and credits from countries which would achieve their 2020 targets - but this will come at a cost.

The final bill would depend on progress over the next two years, and taking into account emission reductions achieved during the recession.

"During the recession, when output in the economy collapsed, Ireland was meeting its climate change targets," he said.

"However, it is clear that we were only meeting our climate targets in those years because of the huge fall in output.

"Once economic growth resumed, the growth in carbon resumed with it, highlighting the very significant structural issues which still exist within the economy in terms of reliance on carbon."

Ireland had agreed to reduce emissions by 20pc below 2005 levels by 2020, but is likely to be just 1pc below. This means it has produced around 17 million tonnes more carbon than allowed.

To comply, it will have to buy greenhouse gas emission allowances from countries which have achieved their targets at a cost of up to €13m.

Analysis published by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland suggests we will achieve between 12.7pc and 13.9pc of our 16pc renewable energy target by 2020 which in a "worst case" scenario will involved the purchase of renewable credits at a cost of some €90m or more.

The State also risks being hit with fines by the European Commission.

Mr Bruton said he had secured Government approval to develop a new climate plan, and warned that the cost of not meeting climate commitments would "grow very significantly" from 2020.

His comments come after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar agreed to a Green Party suggestion that an all-party approach be taken to carbon pricing. The carbon tax, levied on fossil fuels, currently stands at €20 a tonne and needs to rise to discourage investment in climate-polluting technologies. The ESRI says unless other policies are implemented, it will have to increase to between €300 and €470 to meet 2030 targets.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan told the Dáil a trajectory needed to be set, and the tax should double in 2020 and increase in annual €5 increments out to 2030 which would give people certainly.

It is understood the Taoiseach would like the all-party Dáil Climate Action committee chaired by Hildegarde Naughten to co-ordinate efforts, and he has already met her regarding the carbon tax.

The committee would be tasked with setting a carbon price for 2030 and considering how it would be reached; assessing its impact on households and businesses and considering how the revenue would be redistributed.

It comes as the Dáil Climate Action committee was told that emissions will have to halve globally by 2030 to limit average global temperature rises to no more than 1.5C.

Professor Valérie Masson-Delmotte, from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said limiting global warming to 1.5C was "not impossible" but that "rapid changes on an unprecedented scale" were needed.

Irish Independent

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