13 April 2017
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten T.D., has noted the publication today of updated projections of greenhouse gas emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The projections indicate that emissions in the sectors of the economy not covered by the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS) could be between 4% and 6% below 2005 levels by 2020 compared to Ireland's target, under the Effort Sharing Decision, of 20% below 2005 levels by 2020. For comparison, the previous EPA projections indicated that emissions would be 6% - 11% below 2005 levels in 2020.
Commenting on the release of the updated projections, Minister Naughten noted:
"The release of EPA's revised projections of greenhouse gas emissions paints a stark picture of the challenge facing Ireland to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The projections indicate a deteriorating position in respect of achievement of Ireland's target for 2020 when compared with the previous EPA projections. Though not unexpected, given the welcome return to economic growth in Ireland, it nevertheless serves to further reinforce the difficult decisions ahead of us as we try to further reduce our emissions out to 2030. The lack of progress to 2020 partly reflects our reduced investment capacity over the period of the economic downturn and I argue the 2020 target itself was not consistent with what was achievable on an EU wide cost-effective basis."
Minister Naughten highlights Ireland's first National Mitigation Plan, currently in public consultation, which will begin to put Ireland on a pathway to achieve the level of decarbonisation required across Ireland's economy and thereby reverse the upward trend in Ireland's emissions. In this context, Ireland's first plan will not only contain measures to address the challenge to 2020, but equally will also further the development of medium to long term options to ensure that Ireland is well-positioned to take the necessary actions in the next and future decades. The Minister added:
"It is clear that there are no easy options to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions on the scale required in the coming decades. The options presented in the draft National Mitigation Plan will be complex and often expensive to implement. However, in many cases these options will have a range of environmental, economic and other benefits, not just in relation to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also in relation to a range of other environmental indicators and in developing a more sustainable economic framework for Ireland in the decades to come."
The EPA's updated greenhouse emissions projections are published less than a week after the Agency's release of 2016 emissions data for ETS installations in Ireland. This data highlighted a national increase in emissions of 5.4% in 2016 over 2015, driven by increased emissions in power generation, cement production and aviation. These increases can largely be attributed to Ireland's continuing economic recovery. The increase in power generation also reflects the increased role of gas in power generation in 2016, which was driven by a number of factors including a fall in hydro and wind generation resulting from benign weather conditions, and the switch from electricity imports to exports. These factors were offset somewhat by a reduction in peat and coal use.
Minister Naughten commented:
"The 2016 emissions data from the emissions trading sector, recently published by the EPA, clearly show that our reliance on fossil fuels in industry and electricity generation continues to have an impact in terms of our emissions. With an overall increase in emissions of 5.4% compared to the previous year, we are now seeing a clear link between the economic upturn and our greenhouse gas emissions. As the EPA has noted, this link can, in time, be broken by improved price signals within the emissions trading sector."
The need to reduce ETS sector emissions associated with power generation is recognised in the Government's Energy White Paper, which sets out a vision for Ireland's transition to a low carbon energy future. Policy relating to decarbonising Ireland's electricity generation sector sets out a reducing role over time for fuels with higher carbon content. Furthermore, the mitigation measures for electricity generation set out in the draft National Mitigation Plan aim to further increase the share of renewable energy in our electricity generation portfolio.
While the ETS forms one of the main policies of the EU to reduce electricity sector and industrial greenhouse gas emissions in a cost-effective manner, factors such as wider economic growth and recession have also had significant impacts on ETS sector emissions. In order to strengthen the ability of the ETS to achieve its objective of driving down emissions, negotiations are currently under way regarding its reform for the post-2020 period. On the basis of European Commission proposals, Member States including Ireland, have been working to ensure that the reformed ETS is able to meet its GHG reduction objectives in a robust but cost-effective manner. It is currently anticipated that these negotiations will reach a conclusion later this year.
Notes for Editors
The Environmental Protection Agency's publications concerning ETS emissions in 2016 and updated projections of greenhouse gas emissions for 2016-2035 are available at http://www.epa.ie/
Ireland's 2020 targets under 2009 EU Effort Sharing Decision
The 2009 EU Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) (Decision No. 406/2009/EU) set individual Member State targets for non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions (i.e. emissions associated with energy use in buildings and in transport and emissions from agriculture, which are not covered by the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme). The target agreed for Ireland for the year 2020 is that non-ETS emissions should be 20% below their level in 2005, compared to an EU average reduction of 10%. The non-ETS target is legally binding on Ireland.
Ireland's proposed target for 2030
The European Commission's July 2016 proposals to apportion the EU's overall target for non-emissions trading sectors amongst the Member States proposes a 39% emissions reduction target for Ireland from 2005 levels, based on GDP per capita, for the period 2021 to 2030. This target is adjusted downward for cost effectiveness by 9 percentage points to give a headline target of 30%. While this target is not yet agreed, it is clear that it will present an enormous challenge for Ireland, particularly in light of the likely outcome in relation to Ireland's 2020 targets. The European Commission's 2030 Climate and Energy Framework proposals are available at https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/strategies/2030_en
Status of National Mitigation Plan
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment published the draft National Mitigation Plan for public consultation on 15 March. The closing date for receipt of submissions is 26 April 2017. Responses to the consultation paper will be reviewed and considered by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and other responsible Government Departments and will inform the finalisation of the National Mitigation Plan.
The draft Plan is available at http://dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/climate-action/consultations/Pages/National-Mitigation-Plan-.aspx
In accordance with the timeframe set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act, 2015, the final Plan must be submitted to the Government by June 2017.
What mitigation measures are already in place in Ireland to reduce emissions?
The draft National Mitigation Plan lists an extensive suite of mitigation measures already in place in the four key sectors concerned, including measures introduced at EU level and domestic measures. Where available, the draft Plan also provides information on the costs and emissions reduction impact of individual measures. These include, but are not limited to:
- Emissions Trading Scheme;
- Carbon tax;
- Renewable electricity support schemes;
- Renewable energy prototype development funding;
- Financial supports, through SEAI, for housing energy efficiency improvements;
- Social housing energy efficiency upgrades;
- Near Zero Energy building standards;
- Building Energy Rating Certificates;
- SEAI Large Industry Energy Network and SME Support schemes;
- Public Sector Energy Efficiency Strategy;
- Public transport investments;
- Smarter Travel Initiative;
- Tax and financial incentives for low emissions vehicles;
- Biofuels Obligation Scheme;
- Rural Development Programme;
- Forestry Programme.
Will the final National Mitigation Plan contain any new measures?
One of the objectives of this first National Mitigation Plan is to set out the sectoral mitigation options for Government. Ongoing consideration of these options will be informed, inter alia, by the responses received in the public consultation. In some cases, development of specific options is well advanced and have been subject to their own public consultation, for example, in relation to the proposed Renewable Heat Incentive.
In this respect, while the final National Mitigation Plan may confirm that one or more of the options presented will definitely be implemented, it is expected that further work will be required in relation to a number of options presented. In this respect, the National Mitigation Plan will be a living document and will be subject to ongoing refinement.