July 25, 2018
The Climate Change Advisory Council has an essential statutory role in providing independent advice and recommendations to the Government on the implementation of national climate mitigation and adaptation policy, progress on the achievement of the national transition objective and progress towards achievement of Ireland's EU and international commitments.
Progress towards targets
I acknowledge and share the Council's frustration with the lack of progress towards Ireland's climate change targets for 2020. In this respect, the latest projections of greenhouse gas emissions, published by the EPA in May 2018, 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. The Government is doing everything it can to ensure that we, at an absolute minimum, meet our 2030 target.
National Development Plan
I welcome the Council's endorsement of the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan and the contributions that each will make to Ireland's low carbon transition.
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. Almost €22 billion will be spent by Government on 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. This capital investment will enable us to deliver a significant reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions over the period to 2030.
I am implementing ambitious policies that will have a significant impact on Ireland's climate change targets and the wider transition to a low carbon society. The key investment priorities 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 - which I secured Government approval for yesterday - 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 Climate Action Fund of at least €500m, for which an initial call for applications is currently open, to leverage investment by public and private bodies in climate action measures that contribute to achievement of Ireland's climate and energy targets.
- next week I will launch a pilot scheme to support domestic renewable energy generation and self-consumption. The recently agreed recast Renewable Energy Directive brings the 'prosumer' to the heart of new energy policy across the EU. Ireland strongly supports the ambitions behind the establishment of the rights and entitlements associated with both renewable self-consumers and renewable energy communities within the Directive.
In relation to the Council's recommendations on carbon tax, 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.
Clear long-term signalling by Government on the future evolution of the carbon 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 Department of Finance is currently completing a review of carbon tax, and I am actively engaged in this process in terms of the long term signalling of an appropriate carbon price.
I note the Council's issue of concern at a sectoral level in relation to the implementation of climate mitigation policy in Ireland, and this is an area I am looking at closely.
I will consider the Council's recommendations in further detail with my Cabinet colleagues and my officials and I will respond in greater detail in the context of the publication of this year's Annual Transition Statement in the coming months.