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Denis Naughten on the release of updated greenhouse gas emissions projections by EPA

May 31st 2018

The latest projections of greenhouse gas emissions, published by the EPA today are deeply disappointing.  The recent pace of economic growth, and the consequent increases in emissions from the agriculture and transport sectors in particular, have contributed significantly to these projections. The projected shortfall to our targets is further exacerbated by both the constrained investment capacity over the past decade due to the economic crisis, and the extremely challenging nature of the target itself.

 

For 2030, under the recently agreed EU Effort Sharing Regulation which sets out binding annual greenhouse gas emission targets for each Member State for the period 2021 to 2030, Ireland's target will be for a 30% reduction in 2005 levels of emissions by 2030. This is where we must now focus our efforts to ensure that we are on a trajectory to, at an absolute minimum, meet our 2030 target. 

 

Since becoming Ireland's first Minister for Climate Action a little over two years ago, I have acted on key climate policy objectives to drive the transition to a low carbon economy.

 

I published Ireland's first statutory National Mitigation Plan last July.

 

The purpose which is to specify the policy measures required in order to manage Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions at a level appropriate for making progress towards our long-term national transition objective (as set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015), taking into account our existing EU and international obligations on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This Plan explicitly defined the scale of the challenge Ireland faces in decarbonising, and declared itself to be a first step and not a complete roadmap to achieve the national transition objective to 2050. Rather it began the process of development of medium to long-term options to ensure that we are well positioned to take the necessary actions in the next and future decades.

 

The Plan is a 'living document' which is being implemented and updated on an on-going basis. I will also shortly publish an update on climate mitigation policy to coincide with the Empowering Communities for Climate Action event on the 20th of June, which will reflect the significant policy developments since the National Mitigation Plan, in particular with the publication of the National Development Plan.  

 

Building on the National Mitigation Plan, the publication in February of the National Development Plan, will lead to a significant step change in funding available for climate action over the next decade. Reflecting the strong commitment of Government on this issue, almost €22 billion will be directed to addressing the transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient society. In addition, the National Development Plan allocated a further €8.6 billion for investments in sustainable mobility. This means that well over €1 in €5 spent under the National Development Plan will be on climate mitigation, and this capital investment will enable us to deliver a significant reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions over the period to 2030.

 

The key investment priorities in the National Development Plan that I am driving forward are:

·         energy efficiency upgrades of 45,000 homes per year from 2021 and providing support for a major roll-out of heat pump technologies;

·         delivering energy upgrades to BER 'B' level to all public buildings and a minimum of one third of commercial buildings;

·         implementing the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme to deliver an additional 3,000-4,500 MW of renewable energy with the initial focus on shovel ready projects which could contribute to our 2020 targets; 

·         rollout of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat and National Smart Metering Programme;

·         transitioning Moneypoint away from coal by the middle of the next decade;

·         at least 500,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030 with additional charging infrastructure to cater for planned growth; and

·         a €500m Climate Action Fund, which I announced yesterday, to leverage investment by public and private bodies in climate action measures.

 

Both the National Mitigation Plan and the National Development Plan explicitly recognise that that climate mitigation action will require a targeted balance between Exchequer-supported expenditure, taxation measures, regulation and behavioural change. Carbon tax in particular has a critical role in climate mitigation policy, and the National Mitigation Plan commits the Department of Finance to completing a review in 2018, with a view to setting a long-term trajectory for the evolution of this tax. Clear long-term signalling by Government on the future evolution of the tax is vital, as well as an examination of what other changes to the taxation regime could be considered that would assist with the achievement of climate targets - the Low Emission Vehicle Taskforce is bringing forward proposals in this regard.

 

We need to look at the regulatory structure to encourage people to reduce the amount of fossil fuels they are consuming. As regards significant regulatory change, the National Development Plan commits Government to no new non-zero emission cars to be sold in Ireland post 2030, with no NCT Cert to be issued for non-zero emission cars post 2045. There is also to be a transition to a low emission urban bus fleet, including electric buses, with no diesel-only buses purchased from 1 July 2019. We will also become the first country in the world to ban smoky coal later this year.

 

There are difficult days and challenges ahead. We are, as a country playing catch-up on our obligations in relation to climate change.

 

This is as much our opportunity as our obligation. In any event it is a moral necessity and a vital national interest. I must enable people to take action themselves. The change required, requires people to become the agents and the authors of action themselves. Climate action is the move-on from aspiration to policy, and then to specific steps people can take daily. Effective change is putting the levers for climate action into people's hands. Delivery requires fundamental societal transformation.

 

Ends.

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