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Annual Transition Statement presented by Minister Naughten to Dáil Éireann

 

8 december 2016 

the climate action and low carbon development act 2015 provides that an annual transition statement must be presented to both houses of the oireachtas not later than 12 months after the passing of the 2015 act and not later than each subsequent anniversary of such passing. this is the first such statement. in addition to this oral report, i have arranged for a written annual transition statement to be laid in the oireachtas library. the written statement includes an overview of climate change mitigation and adaptation policy measures adopted to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, ghgs, and to adapt to the effects of climate change in order to enable the achievement of the national transition objective. it also contains a record of emissions set out in the most recent inventory prepared by the epa and a projection of future emissions together with a report on compliance with eu and international obligations. full details are set out in the document and in the time available today, i would like to briefly reference some of the key aspects of the statement.

 

i would also like to acknowledge that the government has taken the issue of climate change seriously and has acknowledged that it is a global challenge that requires radical and ambitious thinking. i am the first minister with specific overarching responsibility for climate action and i take this issue very seriously. some of the commentary we have heard from some members inside and outside this house on this issue has been disappointing. the fact is that the programme for a partnership government clearly sets out goals in this area. in simple terms, the government and i, as minister, are committed to putting in place plans that will ensure a transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050. this is just 396 months away. it is disappointing that as a minister who has only been in office for six months, i am lectured by some people about inaction. i am quite happy to have my record over my first six months as minister compared to that of my predecessors in respect of the action we are taking and will take over the coming weeks in respect of a number of measures.

 

we all accept that there is incontrovertible evidence that global warming is threatening life on our planet. observations show that global average temperatures have increased by 0.85° celsius since 1850. the atmosphere and the ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished and sea levels have risen as the concentrations of ghgs have increased. changes in ireland's climate are in line with these global trends and those changes will have diverse and wide-ranging impacts. winters will become wetter and summers will become drier. we may see milder winter temperatures benefitting certain sections of the community, however, this will be offset by the potential for heatwaves during summer. no one in this house needs to be reminded of the consequences of climate change, which were seen this time last year in the severe flooding we experienced.

 

where are we in terms of ghg emissions? the epa has reported in its most recent inventory that emissions for 2015 are estimated at 59.84 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent - some 3.7% higher than the 2014 figure. according to the agency, these figures indicate that ireland will be in compliance with its 2015 annual limit set under the eu's 2009 effort sharing decision but is on course to exceed the limit in 2016 or 2017. in addition to the most recent ghg emissions data, the annual transition statement must also include a projection of future emissions prepared by the epa. the epa estimates published in march 2016 provide an updated assessment of progress towards achieving the emission reduction targets set under the 2009 eu decision for the years from 2013 to 2020. ireland's 2020 target is to achieve a 20% reduction of non-ets sector emissions on 2005 levels with annual binding limits set for each year over the period from 2013 to 2020.

 

the march 2016 projections indicate that emissions in 2020 could be in the range of 6% to 11% below 2005 levels, depending on whether additional policies and measures beyond those already in place by the end of 2014 are implemented. this shortfall reflects our constrained investment capacity for over a decade, from 2008 to 2019, due to the economic crisis, including the impact of the troika programme and eu fiscal governance requirements. all of this means that we will not meet our 2020 target which may, in any case, be inappropriate in terms of cost-effectiveness.

 

apart from eu obligations, colleagues will recall that the dáil approved irish ratification of the paris agreement last month ahead of about 50% of eu member states. commitments under the agreement will be undertaken through a range of climate action plans known as nationally determined contributions, ndcs. ireland will make a technically feasible, cost-effective and fair contribution to this global effort via the ndc tabled by the european union on behalf of member states which commits to at least a 40% reduction in eu-wide emissions by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.

 

as the first minister for communications, climate action and environment, i am fully committed to addressing our eu and international obligations and other challenges we face. in so doing i am adopting a consultative approach. i will shortly publish a preliminary consultation document to inform the preparation of ireland's first national mitigation plan which must be prepared by next june. i will also publish in the coming weeks an initial consultation document on a clean air strategy for ireland with a view to developing an ambitious plan in line with eu policy which will seek to protect citizens' health and fully recognise the linkages between our energy use and the quality of the air we breathe.

 

around the world there is growing evidence that air pollution is damaging our health in different ways. levels that were considered to be safe in the past are no longer safe. air pollution has now been implicated in many major concerns of our time, including cancer, asthma, dementia, obesity and cardiovascular disease. one in five children in this country has asthma. they are gasping for breath and we could help them. about 300 lives a year could be saved by extending the ban on smoky coal nationally. the impact of air position on mortality is thought to be in the order of four deaths every day, never mind the additional pressure this is putting on the health service and the fact that it is costing the economy about €3,800 every minute.

 

since i went into the department, i have prioritised the clean air strategy, not just because of the impacts of air quality on health but also because of the detrimental impact particularly of black carbon and the impact of emissions on our long-term environmental goals. it is important not only to look at the long-term objectives but also at the issues and challenges we face.

 

on renewable energy, i intend to publish a final consultation document on the renewable heat incentive scheme and the details of a joint venture between two of our semi-state companies that seeks to optimise the supply and management of a sustainable biomass industry in this country. as minister, i am trying to support the development of alternative fuels. i have already given an indication of my view on fracking. i supported deputy tony mcloughlin's bill to ban it. the direction i am taking and the decisions i have taken to date are very much focused not just on the here and now but also the long-term objectives in dealing with climate change. while climate policy has been focused primarily on reducing emissions, i am also prioritising the development of a national adaptation framework to ensure we will address the issue of climate resilience. work is progressing on the first national framework which must be submitted to the government by december 2017 and also at sectoral level on the development of sectoral adaptation plans, including for the local government sector.

 

the extent of the challenge presented by climate change and the scale of the transformation required if ireland is to move to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy are clearly evident and have been forcefully highlighted by recent epa publications, to which i have referred. dealing with the causes and consequences of climate change remains a collective challenge both in ireland and elsewhere, but i am confident that we are well positioned to meet it.

 

there are number of other initiatives. in the budget there was a 35% increase in capital investment. i have also included proposals in the clean air strategy to revise motor tax charges to accurately reflect the actual emissions from vehicles, encourage people to take a more responsible attitude to vehicle maintenance, fuel choice and the style of how they drive, thereby driving down emissions in a practical manner.

 

in the public sector we have a challenging target of reducing energy demand by 33% by 2020. in the coming weeks, with the minister for public expenditure and reform, deputy paschal donohoe, i will announce a measure whereby any area in the public sector that makes energy savings will be allowed to retain and reinvest these savings in its own services. that is a clear demonstration of the government's commitment to drive the change to ensure there will be a clear incentive across the public sector to make energy saving changes and reinvest the savings in the development of their own services.

 

many annual transition statements will follow in the period to 2050. this is the first such statement to the house. i am the first minister for communications, climate action and environment and have not yet been in office for six months. i intend to drive this agenda with the support of colleagues in this house and the seanad. rather than criticising what has not been done, it would be far better if people started to work together. deputies should look at the documents to be published within the next six weeks and give us their input. they should work with us to drive the agenda together and really change the economy not just for the betterment of the environment but also in the interests of economic development, job creation and balanced regional development.

 

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