Low-cost loans to help householders retrofit their homes will not be available until at least late this year – two years after they were first announced.
Schools awaiting the roll-out of the rooftop solar scheme will be waiting some more – despite the announcement of the scheme last September, the lowly ambition is to have an “approach developed” by the end of the year.
A “roadmap” for the phase-out of fossil fuel heating systems in buildings will be published by year’s end, so there might finally be an indication of how long more new oil and gas boilers can keep being fitted – three and a half years after the need to set an endpoint was identified.
A strategy to reduce the need for roadmaps by getting people out of their cars has a similar end-of-year target but it’s not clear how robust the measures it will recommend will be or how soon they might come into effect.
This is climate action in slow-motion, bogged down in endless bureaucracy and politicking.
The Government yesterday belatedly published an ‘annexe of actions’ that was meant to accompany last December’s Climate Action Plan.
It contains hundreds of actions that need to be taken to make the ambitions in the plan a reality, but arguably it contains little of the required urgency.
Even the idea of devising a strategy to reduce private car usage was enough to cause convulsions among politicians both from within Government and the opposition this week.
So visceral was their reaction that Cabinet deferred discussion of the possible contents of such a strategy and agreed simply to agree to the preparation of one instead.
“It’s a very worrying sign if Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are too scared to even talk about how to achieve the transport targets they agreed just months ago,” sighed Oisín Coghlan of Friends of the Earth.
It’s also worrying that such preliminary measures as strategy preparation are being taken only now because it shows how far Ireland is from making the transformative leaps necessary to cut carbon emissions.
The annexe includes a commitment to build a National Agricultural Sustainability Research and Innovation Centre (NASRIC) in the Wexford campus of Teagasc by 2025.
Even when the project was first announced in November 2021, it read like an admission that this most well-staffed and well-funded of public bodies was geared towards unsustainable agricultural practices. Almost a year and a half later, its re-announcement does little to dispel that suspicion.
There are some measures that look to have the wind of political enthusiasm behind them.
Tax breaks for small landlords to carry out retrofitting with tenants in situ are to be in place this spring, which is near record speed for a move announced just last November.
A Just Transition Commission is to be established by the middle of this year which would be an important symbolic gesture, and hopefully a practical support, in that all-important task of bringing the public along the bumpy climate action journey.
The introduction of the hotly debated ‘latte levy’ on disposable coffee cups also gets a mid-year target date, although enthusiasm in some government quarters for it barely registers on the Beaufort scale.
The publication of new guidelines for the development of onshore wind farms, now years overdue, has been pushed out to the end of the year, however. Even at that point, all that is expected is a draft version.
Progress may be swifter on offshore wind guidelines. In a separate but related announcement, it was confirmed that future offshore wind farms will be located in pre-designated areas where the State wants them rather than where developers might like to put them.
Designated Maritime Area Plans (DMAPs) will be drawn up, acting as the marine equivalent of county development plans.
The first will be off the south and south-east coasts, taking the pressure off the east coast where a first tranche of offshore wind farms are already in advanced stages of preparation.
These will be allowed submit planning applications for their chosen sites but those that follow will be subject to DMAPs which will have been environmentally assessed and opened to public consultation in advance.
Some developers with projects in early-stage preparation with an eye to the east coast are unhappy with the decision, but as the ructions over a traffic strategy showed this week, no one ever seems happy with climate actions.
Environment Minister Eamon Ryan, publishing the annexe, stressed the importance of its contents in addressing what we keep hearing from leaders is the most pressing issue of our time but which is seldom borne out by their subsequent actions.
“Achieving net-zero emissions by the middle of the century and keeping the global average temperature below 1.5C will not be easy,” he said.
“It will require courage and commitment.”
Traffic strategy or no traffic strategy, it will also require a heavier foot on the accelerator.