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Sunday 19 November 2017

Ireland set to miss its 2020 emissions target by 'a substantial margin'

Denis Naughten. Photo: Doug O'Connor
Denis Naughten. Photo: Doug O'Connor
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

The Government's plan to reduce emissions will not transform Ireland to a low-carbon economy, the Climate Change Advisory Council says.

There is "no framework" to prioritise policies including a switch away from the private car, and an "absence of decisions" in the National Mitigation Plan launched last week.

Chair of the Government-appointed body, Professor John Fitzgerald, said it is "urgent" that additional policies are put in place. The criticism follows that from environmental groups, which says Minister Denis Naughten's plan lacks ambition and is a list of options as opposed to a policy document.

In its 'Periodic Review' report, it says that Ireland is likely to miss its 2020 targets to reduce emissions “by a substantial margin”, which will have “implications” for 2030 obligations.

“It is urgent that effective additional policies are implemented to place the economy on an environmentally sustainable pathway to a low-carbon Ireland in 2050,” it says.

It also notes that while the National Mitigation Plan identified a range of options, “the introduction of, and commitment to new, cost-effective emission reduction policies and meaures is essential”.

“We would like more progress,” Professor Fitzgerald said. “Things are going in the wrong direction. We need major policy initiatives if we are to meet our targets. We are not progressing with 2020 targets. It's true we can buy our way out of our 2020 targets by buying credits, but the longer we take for action the more expensive it may be. The loopholes may not be sensible.”

Among the issues include a need to review existing policies, and to measure how policies impact on the wider goal of reducing emissions.

If, for example, all cars and heating was electrified, gains would be nullified unless the electricity generated was from clean sources, and not from fossil fuels.

Subsidies to continue to produce power from peat needed to be removed.

“We need to remove fossil fuel subsidies. They're (peat-fired power plant operators) talking about co-firing with biomass, but with 30pc biomass and 70pc peat, you will still produce more emissions than coal. We need to remove all subsidies for peat-fired power stations,” Professor Fitzgerald said.

He also said a “load of money” would be spent to achieve climate goals, and assurances were needed that the investment was properly made.

The Climate Council has also recommended that the public be told of future carbon taxes in advance of them being implemented.

“You need forward guidance on carbon tax. If people know there's going to be a price to pollute, they will prepare for it,” he added.

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