Warning of emissions surge on clogged roads
Citizens' Assembly told number of cars will soar to over three million by 2050
Ireland's carbon emissions from transport including private cars will leap by at least 10pc between 2015 and 2020, a leading academic has warned.
Dr Brian Caulfield, associate professor at Trinity's department of civil, structural and environmental engineering, revealed the scale of the problem at the Citizens' Assembly meeting at Malahide which is considering how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change.
In a paper to the Assembly, which continues today, Dr Caulfield said transport accounted for about 20pc of all emissions in Ireland in 2015.
"Economic growth and subsequent demand for transport are closely linked. The knock-on impact means emissions in this sector are also growing and are predicted to grow by 10-12pc above 2015 levels by 2020 according to Environmental Protection Agency research," he said.
"This demonstrates the scale of the problem in this sector. The number of cars in Ireland is predicted to increase from approximately two million in 2016 to over three million in 2050.
"This means reducing emissions and implementing low-carbon transport options is crucial. This has to be done even when the numbers of vehicles and the demand for transport are both increasing."
Dr Caulfield said he believed a twin-track approach was needed.
"We must change how we fuel our transport with electrification of our vehicles, improving vehicle technologies and the use of bio-fuels," he said.
He added that people must also reduce their reliance on private vehicles and shift toward public transport, shared car usage, walking and cycling.
In a low-carbon transport model our cities would have high-quality, connected and efficient public transport networks, he said.
Walking and cycling would be the main mode of transport for most short-distance trips while car-pooling would have to increase in urban areas.
In rural Ireland, low-carbon transport could be achieved by the electrification of private vehicles, Dr Caulfield added.
"Efficient public transport is not something that should be limited to those living in our cities. Rural public transport requires the use of technologies that enable demand-responsive transport in which users can book the use of public transport to service lower populated areas," he said.
The meeting will also see presentations today on the efforts that other countries - including Denmark and Scotland - have made and the results that have been achieved.
Assembly chair Ms Justice Mary Laffoy said members would vote by secret ballot this afternoon on the climate action recommendations to be submitted to the houses of the Oireachtas.
She added that the 1,200 submissions from the public on climate change clearly demonstrated a strong desire for action.
National Transport Authority chief executive Anne Graham said climate change considerations were now being built into transportation policy.
She said private cars accounted for 75pc of trips in Ireland and ways had to be found to encourage people to switch to sustainable transport.
The assembly also discussed the impact of climate change on farming and the Irish agricultural sector.
It heard there is a strong case for farmers to have to pay financially for the greenhouse gasses for they produce.
Trinity College Professor Alan Matthews told the assembly that such measures would have a huge impact. He added that farming in Ireland would not represent sustainable production if citizens had to purchase carbon credits to meet EU emissions targets while farmers were provided with a level of protection. He said the introduction of a carbon tax would motivate farmers to become more climate efficient.
The assembly's considerations come just days after a new report in the US found climate change was driven by human activity.
The US government report found that the rapid pace of global climate change is almost certainly driven by activity such as the burning of fossil fuels.
"For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence," it said.
The report found that global temperatures have increased by approximately one degree during the past 115 years. Climate change has also had an impact on sea levels, with the global average sea level rising by seven inches over the same period.