Upgrade of all our houses to cut energy use will cost €50bn
Upgrading the national housing stock to make it more energy-efficient and help drive down emissions will cost up to €50bn, Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton has revealed.
Retrofitting two million properties so they use less energy will require public and private-sector funding, and will be among a number of projects needed to decarbonise the economy, he told the Dáil climate committee.
His comments come as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed greenhouse gas emissions fell by less than 1pc last year, more by accident than design. The slight drop in 2017 was due to warmer weather, less fuel tourism and more renewables on the power system, but they rose in the agriculture sector due to higher cattle numbers.
The environmental watchdog warned that the overall emissions drop may not be sustained over the longer term, with the latest figures showing the State is off track to meet its EU 2020 targets, despite a drop of 0.9pc in emissions last year.
Agriculture emissions rose by 2.9pc, but transport fell by 2.4pc, power generation by 6.9pc and household by 5pc.
The State currently generates almost three million tonnes of emissions above the level needed to meet our legally binding targets. In 2017, some 60.75 million tonnes were emitted, down 530,000 tonnes on 2016.
Mr Bruton welcomed the emission cuts, but highlighted that the State was "far off course" to meet its international obligations.
He told the Dáil committee there were "challenges in every sector", with transport emissions averaging 1.6 tonnes per head of population, which was among the highest levels in the EU.
Only 16pc of housing stock was energy-efficient, meaning carbon use per dwelling was 50pc higher than in much of Europe.
It would cost €50bn to upgrade all homes in the State to the required standard, he said, adding the Government's climate plan would set out targets across society which would be delivered against a "rigid timescale".
"It will require every government department, community, individual and enterprise playing a role but the public sector must show leadership in this area," he said. "We have to look to the least cost way of achieving these targets but we have to be ambitious."
EPA director Dr Eimear Cotter said while the emission drop was welcomed, there were question marks about cuts over the longer term.
"Some of the underlying drivers of this decrease point to circumstance rather than deliberate action, a fall in cross-border refuelling and warmer weather played a role this year," she said.
"This would raise questions about the longevity and enduring nature of these decreases in future years."
It says that agriculture emissions increased by 2.9pc in 2017, up 570,000 tonnes, driven by higher dairy cow numbers which increased by 3.1pc year on year. This reflects plans to expand milk production, with dairy cow numbers rising by 26pc in the last five years while emissions rose by 10pc.
While demand for electricity rose by 1pc, emissions fell by 6.9pc due to less coal and peat being used and more renewables on the system.
This led to electricity being generated at a lower environmental cost than at any time on record, the EPA added, with wind generation up 21pc.