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Greenhouse gas cuts will hit less than half of target on our current plan, warns EPA


Environmental Protectioan Agency director general Laura Burke

Environmental Protectioan Agency director general Laura Burke

Environmental Protectioan Agency director general Laura Burke

All the climate action measures currently laid out for Ireland will achieve less than half our targeted greenhouse gas emissions cuts.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is forecasting a 24pc drop in emissions by 2030 – if every measure in the 2019 climate action plan is delivered in full.

That’s far short of the 51pc cut that was agreed in the Programme for Government and which is made mandatory in the Climate Bill.

A new climate action plan is to be produced soon and the EPA is warning that many substantial new measures will need to be identified and implemented across all of society, business and industry.

“The scale of the changes necessary is difficult to overstate and will impact all sectors and all of society but is commensurate with what is required to tackle the existential challenge we face,” it says.

Its annual greenhouse gas projections report looks at Ireland’s performance in respect of a number of targets.

The EU set us a 20pc emissions reduction target by 2020 compared to 2005. A cut of just 7pc was achieved and we are spending millions of euro buying emission allowances from countries that over-achieved to buy compliance.

Under existing EU rules, a 30pc cut applies for 2030. The EPA says delivering the 2019 plan in full would give a 24pc reduction.

That plus the 7pc cut to date would give a 31pc total.

But the EU targets were based on a targeted total bloc reduction of 40pc by 2030. That was recently increased to 55pc, with effects for individual countries to be spelled out in the coming months.

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Meanwhile, Ireland has adopted tougher national objectives, with Government policy seeking a 51pc reduction by 2030, a target set to be enshrined in law when the Climate Bill is enacted shortly.

The moving targets, and the need for new measures to achieve them, make projecting future emissions tricky.

The EPA is clear, however, that what is happening currently is not enough to achieve the cuts necessary to play a part in reining in global temperature rise and preventing escalating climate breakdown.

“There needs to be a significant and immediate increase in the scale and pace of greenhouse gas emission reductions,” said EPA director general Laura Burke.

Putting into practice the 2019 climate action plan demands massive changes in how the country operates.

It requires 70pc of electricity to come from wind and solar; replacement of one million vehicles with electric alternatives; retrofitting of half a million homes and the installation of 600,000 heat pumps; and changes in farming.

Even then, Ireland would have to make use of “flexibilities” allowed by the EU, such as buying emissions allowances, to hit the 2030 target.

There are other red flags in the EPA report, with energy emissions expected to rise at the end of this decade “as projected increases in electricity demand outpace additional abatement measures”.

Increased emissions from industry and manufacturing are also expected, mainly due to cement production for the growing construction sector.

Stephen Treacy, EPA senior manager, said identifying measures to cut emissions was only part of the challenge.

Ireland would have met the 2020 EU targets if steps identified in 2015 were acted upon, he said.

“Ireland needs to improve on its past record of performance in implementation of climate policies and measures,” he added.

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