THE way has been cleared for TDs and senators to debate the country’s first carbon budgets, which will place severe restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions.
Cabinet approved the proposed budgets earlier this week and they were laid before the Oireachtas on Thursday.
By law, the Dáil and Seanad must both consider the budgets before they can take effect, with debates to take place “as soon as may be” after they receive the documents.
It is expected time will be set aside in the next fortnight for the issue to be dealt with.
The budgets were proposed by the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) which was tasked with plotting a path to a 51pc reduction in national greenhouse gas, or carbon, emissions by 2030.
Gradual reductions over two five-year periods are proposed requiring average cuts of 4.8pc per year from 2021-2025 and 8.3pc per year from 2026-2030.
Already a year of the first budget period has been lost and indications are that emissions grew last year despite the continuing disruption to the economy from Covid.
Expectations are that they will grow again this year as economic activity returns to normal.
Those trends will make approving the budgets as proposed difficult as they will be legally binding.
Any failure to achieve reductions in emissions in the first budget period will lead to a revision of demands on the second period which would get even tougher.
Climate experts have meanwhile warned the budgets, as currently proposed, are not tough enough in the first period.
Climate Action Minister Eamon Ryan, however, has accepted the CCAC’s figures and he secured the backing of his Cabinet colleagues for them on Tuesday.
He also has the support of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action which held hearings on the CCAC’s proposals and voted by majority to recommend their acceptance.
The minister was also required by law to hold a public consultation on the proposed budgets which closed earlier his month.
A briefing document for the Houses of the Oireachtas says the minister had considered the inputs from the consultation, and the views of other ministers.
“The observations received from ministers were supportive of the carbon budgeting process and the CCAC’s proposals,” it said.
It adds that “important issues were highlighted for consideration in framing sectoral ceilings and preparing future iterations of the Climate Action Plan”.
Sectoral emission ceilings are the cuts in emissions that Ministers will have to oversee in their own sectors.
Minister Ryan has proposed provisional ranges for these cuts which vary in severity.
Emissions cuts of between 22-30pc will be required from agriculture by 2030, 42-5-pc from transport, 62-81pc from electricity production, 44-56pc from buildings, 29-41pc from industry and 37-58pc from land use.
A spokesperson for the Department of Climate Action said the sectoral ceilings would be pinned down once the carbon budgets were approved.
“The figures, which are now ranges, will be absolute emissions ceilings for each sector over the carbon budget periods.
“The Minister expects to bring proposals on these sectoral ceilings to Government by end Q2 [June] this year.”