New sectoral emissions limits aim to help Ireland meet climate targets

29 Jul 2022

Image: © maykal/Stock.adobe.com

The new targets have been deemed a ‘step in the right direction’, but could also be ‘problematic’ in ensuring an overall emissions reduction of 51pc.

Sectoral emissions ceilings have been announced by the Irish Government, with a target of reducing emissions by 25pc in agriculture and 75pc in electricity by 2030.

The announcement comes a week after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned that Ireland’s emissions have surpassed pre-Covid levels.

The new emissions targets have been set for the electricity, transport, buildings, industry and agriculture sectors as Ireland looks to reduce overall emissions by 51pc by 2030.

While the electricity sector is expected to reduce its emissions by 75pc, transport’s target is a 50pc reduction, while industry and buildings must reduce their emissions by between 35pc and 45pc.

One of the most discussed sectors in regard to emissions has been the agricultural sector. While the EPA previously stated that all sectors have work to do, it noted the challenge is “particularly evident” in agriculture.

The agency’s figures from last week suggested that agriculture was responsible for 37.5pc of Ireland’s total emissions in 2021.

While the Government is now seeking a 25pc reduction in emissions from the agricultural sector, it said the ceilings will be voluntary and will “allow farmers to play their part”, adding that there will be financial incentives in return.

Minister of the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan, TD, said the new targets show that “Ireland is stepping up to the plate” in reducing its impact on the planet.

“The targets that have been set today are going to be challenging for all sectors, but they are also fair, appropriate and, importantly, based on what is achievable,” he said.

“We have also agreed additional resources and commitments to scale up and speed up our progress on solar, off-shore wind, anaerobic digestion for nature, and agro-forestry.”

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, TD, added that the enterprise sector is committing to a 35pc reduction in emissions by 2030.

“We will provide advice and expertise, grants and loans to reduce energy use, increase the use of electricity and, in time, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage and other new technologies,” he said.

“We will also avail of the many business and employment opportunities that arise from climate action by becoming a producer and exporter of clean, secure and cheap renewable energy and fertilisers, a major retrofitting programme and a leader in new technologies like synthetic aviation fuels, autonomous vehicles, electric aircraft and robotics.”

Further action will be needed

An EPA report in June suggested that if all planned climate policies and measures at the time were fully implemented in Ireland, it could deliver an emissions reduction of up to 28pc by 2030, meaning further actions were needed.

This latest action has been seen as a positive step by many in the renewable energy sector. Irish Solar Energy Association CEO Conall Bolger said the targets are “a welcome step in the right direction” and John Manning, MD of green hydrogen company EIH2, said it is “great news for Ireland”.

However, Marie Donnelly, chair of Ireland’s Climate Change Advisory Council, said that while the sectoral targets are “an important milestone” in meeting the country’s climate objectives, they are also “problematic”.

“Firstly, and most importantly, the quantified emissions reductions only amount to a reduction of 43pc excluding the land use sector and are therefore not consistent with the objective in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act,” she said.

“Secondly, whilst they set down the percentage reductions by 2030, they do not illustrate how these are consistent with the carbon budgets. Finally, they exclude the land use sector, which is a source of emissions and needs to be addressed urgently.”

Donnelly added that while the targets are a useful starting point, they will need to be revised upwards and monitored closely.

“The Climate Action Plan 2023, due later this year, will need to set out the precise actions and steps that will need to be followed in order to align with the ambition of the carbon budgets which were adopted by the Oireachtas in April.”

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Jenny Darmody is the deputy editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com