19 July 2017
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten T.D., has today published Ireland's first statutory National Mitigation Plan. Prepared in accordance with the provisions of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act, 2015, the Plan represents an initial step to set Ireland on a pathway to achieve the deep decarbonisation required in Ireland by mid-century in line with the Government's policy objectives.
The National Mitigation Plan contains a series of mitigation measures and actions to address the immediate challenge to 2020 and to prepare for the EU targets that Ireland will take on for 2030. It will also begin the development of work to meet the objectives of the National Policy Position for 2050.
The National Mitigation Plan covers greenhouse gas emissions in the Electricity Generation, Built Environment, Transport, and Agriculture, Forest and Land Use sectors. For each sector, the Plan sets out the sectoral policy context, the greenhouse gas emissions trends for each sector, the opportunities and challenges, mitigation measures currently in place and under development, and specific actions to take forward work within each sector.
Announcing the publication of the Plan Minister Denis Naughten said:
"This Plan is the culmination of months of sustained work across Government and represents a first step in our 'whole-of-Government' approach to addressing Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions. As a country we are playing catch-up on our obligations in relation to climate change. This obligation is as much an opportunity as an obligation. In any event it is a moral necessity and a vital national interest. The work does not end here, however, but rather begins. The Plan sets out the full range of measures already being undertaken to reduce our emissions but crucially it also provides the framework for further work that must now be undertaken by Government as a whole in the months ahead. On climate change, change is possible. Our role is to put the levers for change into peoples' hands. This is our work at home, while abroad we stand firm in our commitment to the Paris Agreement. Energy efficiency is central to this plan. This is because using less energy and using it more efficiently is the most cost-effective and accessible way to tackle climate change."
The National Mitigation Plan provides a robust framework for action and accountability for progress as follows:
- 106 distinct actions are included in the final Plan to be implemented across Government in order to advance the national transition agenda;
- robust implementation and oversight through a National Mitigation Plan High Level Steering Group which will be chaired by Minister Naughten;
- accountability for progress through the statutory Annual Transition Statement delivered to the Oireachtas which will incorporate a National Mitigation Plan Progress Report;
- a commitment to more integration of climate change into the annual estimates processes and into the Government's Public Spending Code; and
- the Climate Change Advisory Council to review annual progress in line with its statutory mandate.
Minister Denis Naughten added:
"The Plan provides a sustained, considered and strategic approach to incremental and permanent decarbonisation involving all of Government and society. Individual Ministers will play a key leadership role in driving action year on year and will be directly accountable to the Oireachtas to demonstrate real progress in their sectors to moving Ireland closer to achieving its national transition objective. The strength of this Government's intent is reflected in the fact that today the Cabinet is holding a strategic meeting dedicated to climate action. An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar committed to this strategic Cabinet meeting on Climate Action on his very first day in office. It is the work of politics to bridge the gulf between global challenge and national responsibility, and between Ireland's obligation and every single citizen's responsibility. I look forward to working closely with An Taoiseach and my colleagues in Cabinet to lead change effectively."
Minister Naughten is also pleased to announce the Membership of the Advisory Group on the National Dialogue on Climate Change as follows:
16 Members for Advisory Group confirmed:
Pat Gilroy (Chair)
Ciarán Hayes (County and City Management Association)
Conor Minogue (IBEC)
Adrian Kane (ICTU)
Thomas Ryan (IFA)
Frank Maughan (DCCAE)
Rory O'Donnell (National Economic and Social Council)
Cara Augustenborg (Environmental Scientist and Communications Expert)
Michael Ewing (Environmental Pillar)
Lorna Gold (Head of Policy and Advocacy, Trócaire)
Edmund Grace (People Talk)
Seán McDonagh (Ecologist)
Brigid McManus (Retired Secretary General – Department of Education and Skills)
Ryan Meade (Public Policy Adviser)
Paul Melia (Environment Journalist)
Elaine Nevin (ECO-UNESCO)
The first meeting of the Advisory Group will take place on the 26th July 2017. Details of the Dialogue are contained in the Notes for Editors below.
Further information on the National Mitigation Plan can be accessed at the following link:
Notes for Editors
Purpose of the National Mitigation Plan
The National Mitigation Plan has been prepared in line with the requirements of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act, 2015. The purpose of the Plan is to specify the policy measures required in order to manage greenhouse gas emissions and removals at a level appropriate for furthering the achievement of the national transition objective and to take into account existing EU and international obligations on the State in relation to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This Plan is the first such Plan under the 2015 legislation. As such it does not represent a complete roadmap to achieving the 2050 national transition objective but begins the process of development of medium to long term options to position Ireland to take the necessary actions in the next and future decades. This will be an ongoing process. The National Mitigation Plan will be a living document and will be subject to ongoing refinement. In addition, there will be formal preparation of successive National Mitigation Plans at least once every five years as provided for in the 2015 legislation.
Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act
The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act, 2015, sets out a national transition objective to transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050.
Section 3 of the Act provides that the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment must make and submit to Government a series of successive National Mitigation Plans and National Adaptation Frameworks.
Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment
A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Statement and Natura Impact Statement are being published alongside the National Mitigation Plan.
The SEA Statement has been prepared on foot of the requirements of Directive 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment, as implemented in Ireland through the European Communities (Environmental Assessment of Certain Plans and Programmes) Regulations (S.I. 435 of 2004 as amended by S.I. 200 of 2011).
The Natura Impact Statement has been prepared in compliance with Article 6 of EU Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992, on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (as amended).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the 2050 transition objective?
The extent of the challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with our International and EU obligations is well understood by Government and is reflected also in the National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (2014) and the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. Both the policy position and legal framework are key elements of the effort to progress the national low carbon transition agenda.
The National Policy Position establishes the fundamental national objective of achieving transition to a competitive, low carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050. It sets out the context for the objective; clarifies the level of GHG mitigation ambition envisaged; and establishes the process to pursue and achieve the overall objective. Specifically, the National Policy Position envisages that policy development will be guided by a long-term vision based on:
- an aggregate reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of at least 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors; and
- in parallel, an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.
The National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development is available at http://www.housing.gov.ie/environment/climate-change/policy/climate-action-and-low-carbon-development-national-policy-position
How is Ireland performing in relation to its existing 2020 climate change targets?
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.
In April 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency published updated projections of greenhouse gas emissions under two different scenarios ('with measures' and 'with additional measures') of policy implementation for the period 2016-2035.
The latest EPA projections indicate that, by 2020, Ireland's emissions are likely to be in the range of 4% - 6% below 2005 levels. This is well short of Ireland's target of a 20% reduction on 2005 levels, and a deteriorating position, in the context of increasing activity in the economy, when compared to the previous set of EPA projections, published in 2016. Under the EPA's 'with measures' scenario (a business as usual scenario incorporating no new measures after end-2015), Ireland is expected to exceed its obligations by the equivalent of 13.7 million tonnes of CO2 over the 2013-2020 period.
The legislative framework governing the EU's 2020 emissions reduction targets includes a number of flexibility mechanisms to enable member states to meet their annual emissions targets, including provisions to bank any excess allowances to future years and to trade allowances between member states. Using banked emissions from the period to 2015, Ireland is projected to comply with its emission reduction targets in each of the years 2013 to 2018. However, cumulative emissions are expected to exceed targets for 2019 and 2020, which will result in a requirement to purchase additional allowances. While this requirement is not, at this stage, expected to be significant, further analysis will be required to quantify the likely costs involved in light of the final amount and the price of allowances required.
EPA greenhouse gas emissions projections are prepared annually and are available at http://www.epa.ie/climate/emissionsinventoriesandprojections/
What will Ireland's target be 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
What mitigation measures are already in place to reduce emissions?
The National Mitigation Plan lists 60 specific measures already in place in the four sectors concerned to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Where available, the Plan also provides information on the costs and emissions reduction impact of individual measures. These measures include:
- 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, including Beef Data and Genomics Programme, the Knowledge Transfer Programme, GLAS (Green, Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme) and Organic Farming Scheme; and
Does the National Mitigation Plan contain any new measures?
The Plan lists 17 separate proposals for new measures that are under development by Government, including:
- A revised Renewable Electricity Support Scheme;
- Increased electricity connectivity;
- Future role of Moneypoint;
- Renewable heat incentive;
- Smart metering;
- Minimal thermal standards in properties;
- Voluntary Housing Association upgrades;
- Further incentives for low emission vehicles;
- Further public transport investment;
- Supports and incentives to modal shift;
- Taxation policy development;
- Biofuels obligation scheme development;
- National policy on parking;
- Reduction of top speed limits on motorways; and
- Forest cover expansion post-2020.
Further announcements in relation to a number of these proposals are expected to be made later in 2017.
What are the key changes introduced between the draft and final National Mitigation Plan?
- A total of 106 actions are included in the final Plan to be implemented across Government in order to advance the national transition agenda;
- Robust implementation and oversight arrangements through a High Level Steering Group, annual progress reports and the Annual Transition Statement to the Oireachtas;
- A commitment to more robustly integrate climate change to our annual estimates processes and to review the Public Spending Code to ensure it is fit for purpose;
- A commitment to carbon pricing as a long-term core plan of Ireland's climate mitigation policy mix;
- A commitment to address 'just transition' concerns by undertaking a detailed study on the economic and employment implications of the transition;
- Recognition of the key role of Local Authorities and the essential relationship between spatial planning and climate change;
- A commitment that all new cars and vans sold in Ireland from 2030 will be zero emission (or zero emission capable), in line with the National Policy Framework: Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport in Ireland: 2017-2030;
- Further work, led by the Department of Agriculture, to elaborate on the concept of 'carbon neutrality' in the agriculture sector for 2050;
- Work to further investigate the potential role of wetlands to contribute to Ireland's mitigation objectives, including our EU targets for the next decade ahead; and
- Significant changes to text of the Plan, taking into account developments in the sectors, consultation submissions received and the advice of the Climate Change Advisory Council.
What are the National Mitigation Plan actions and how are these different from measures?
In addition to setting out the full range of measures that the Government has already implemented or is considering to reduce Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions, the National Mitigation Plan includes 106 specific actions to be progressed by specified lead Departments and agencies between now and the end of 2020.
These actions are the individual building blocks that will enable the Government and wider society to implement deeper reductions in emissions in the years ahead. Progress against each action will be reported each year from 2018 as part of the Annual Transition Statement to be delivered in the Oireachtas.
Annex 1 of the Plan sets out the full list of actions.
What does the Plan have to say about the Government's long-term commitments on climate change?
The Plan recommits the Government to the 2014 national Policy Position which establishes the fundamental national objective of achieving transition to a competitive, low carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050. It sets out the context for the objective; clarifies the level of GHG mitigation ambition envisaged; and establishes the process to pursue and achieve the overall objective. Specifically, the National Policy Position envisages that policy development will be guided by a long-term vision based on:
• an aggregate reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of at least 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors; and
• in parallel, an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.
At a sectoral level, the Plan includes a commitment for the transport sector that all new cars and vans sold in Ireland from 2030 will be zero emission (or zero emission capable). This is in line with the Government's new National Policy Framework: Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport in Ireland: 2017-2030.
Further sector-specific commitments will be made in the context of policy developments within each sector, in particular as we have more certainty on our expected climate and energy targets for 2030 under the proposed EU Effort Sharing Regulation and Energy Union package.
What about sources of emissions not covered by the National Mitigation Plan?
The National Mitigation Plan covers four key sectors which account for the vast majority of Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions. A small volume of emissions, from the waste sector and from industrial gases, are not addressed by this plan as these emissions are already controlled by regulation. These emissions account for less than 4% of the total. The full list of emissions sources in Ireland are set out in the National Inventory Report, published by the Environmental Protection Agency here:
How is the National Mitigation Plan going to be funded?
The National Mitigation Plan itself does not include any specific decisions on the funding of individual measures. This is a matter for the Government in the context of prioritisation as part of expenditure planning in the estimates and budgetary processes, including as part of the current spending review and mid-term review of the Capital Plan.
What is the purpose of the Annual Transition Statement?
Section 14 of the 2015 Act provides for the presentation of an Annual Transition Statement (ATS) to each House of the Oireachtas. The first such statement was delivered in December 2016. This obligation will also apply, from 2017 onwards, to each Minister who has been designated under section 4(3) of the 2015 Act, currently the Ministers for Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government; and Transport, Tourism and Sport.
Key elements of an ATS as set out in the 2015 Act include: overviews of mitigation and adaptation policy measures adopted by sectors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; assessments of the effectiveness of these measures and updated inventories and projections for greenhouse gas emissions from the EPA.
The 2017 Annual Transition Statement will be delivered to the Oireachtas after Budget 2018. From 2018 onwards, the Annual Transition Statement will be integrated with the National Mitigation Plan Annual Progress Report which will record progress in relation to each of the actions set out in the National Mitigation Plan.
How does the National Mitigation Plan link to the National Dialogue on Climate Action?
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment announced earlier this year that the Government was moving to establish, on a two-year pilot basis, a National Dialogue on Climate Action. This is in line with the commitment set out in the Programme for Government.
The primary objective of the National Dialogue will be to ensure an inclusive process of engagement and consensus building across society towards enabling the transformation to a low carbon and climate-resilient future. To do this, the Dialogue will seek to create awareness, engagement and motivation to act (locally, regionally and nationally) in relation to the challenges presented by climate change and to establish, on a long term basis, appropriate networks for people to meet periodically to consider evidence-based inputs on the economic, social, behavioural, environmental and public aspects of climate and energy policy.
The Minister is currently finalising, and will shortly announce, the membership of a National Dialogue on Climate Action Advisory Group which he is establishing to provide him with advice in relation to the overall strategy, structure and operation of the National Dialogue.
A key element of the National Dialogue already underway is the Green Schools National Climate Change Action and Awareness Programme which, for 2017, includes the development phase for a Climate Change Ambassadors Programme.
Further action and initiatives under the National Dialogue will be announced in due course.
When will the Government publish a National Adaptation Framework?
The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 requires the Minister to submit a National Adaptation Framework to Government for approval before the end of 2017. Work is well underway on the preparation of the framework and it is envisaged that a draft framework will be issued for public consultation over the coming months.
What is the role of the Climate Change Advisory Council in the preparation of the National Mitigation Plan?
The Climate Change Advisory Council is an independent, statutory body established pursuant to the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act to advise the Minister and the Government in relation to climate change. The Advisory Council has specific functions under the Act to make recommendations in relation to the preparation of national mitigation plans.
The First Report of the Advisory Council, published in November 2016, sets out a number of broad recommendations in relation to the preparation of the National Mitigation Plan. See http://www.climatecouncil.ie/
Key recommendations of the Advisory Council and how they are addressed in the Plan are set out below:
|Advisory Council recommendation||National Mitigation Plan commitment |
|A transparent and coherent framework for economy-wide actions, including analysis of the price of carbon, in order to underpin actions over time horizons to 2030 and 2050||NMP recommits to carbon tax as a long-term core plank of climate mitigation policy. D/Finance to commission ESRI to undertake examination of impact of carbon tax and future tax rate to report in 2018. |
|Clarity in assumptions about the cost of carbon and for guidance on cost-benefit analysis to take account of the time horizon over which the full effects of climate change are expected to materialise.||2018 review of Public Spending Code to include review of existing guidance on shadow price of carbon and test discount rate. |
|Consistent application of the Public Spending Code in assessing the full costs and benefits of different measures and for appropriate consideration of the distribution effects of the range of policies proposed. ||2018 review of Public Spending Code to include review of guidance on public expenditure appraisal and evaluation to ensure their suitability to capturing key costs and benefits of climate measures.|
|A clear signal to direct the main sectors in order to achieve the national transition objective for 2050 which should, in turn, inform sectoral goals and actions, including to 2020 and 2030.||NMP presents summary of commissioned analysis (UCC & ESRI) on sectoral and macro-economic implications of emissions reductions pathways to 2030 and 2050. Full report will be published alongside NMP. |
|Essential role of taxation measures as major policy instruments in tackling the problem of climate change alongside other measures that may be necessary to address different types of market failures.|
NMP includes clear role for carbon tax and sectoral taxation, in particular transport-related taxation, as mitigation measures. Further refinement of latter to be kept under Maintain under continuous review, in particular in context of forthcoming Budgetary and Estimates process.
|A suitable governance framework and implementation structures to enable a cross-sectoral response and an integrated and managed transition. ||Government will establish an NMP Steering Group, publish an annual NMP progress report and provide ongoing Oireachtas oversight through the Annual Transition Statement.|