Ireland’s inability to meet 2020 carbon targets an ‘extraordinary story of failure’

21 Nov 2018

Image: © acinquantadue/

Leo Varadkar’s admission that Ireland won’t make its 2020 carbon emission targets has been strongly criticised by Government opposition.

Even the most optimistic of reports on Ireland’s efforts to curb its carbon emissions enough to meet EU 2020 targets knew the day would come when the Government would have to admit we have no chance of meeting them.

Now, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, has confirmed this to the Dáil, with expectations that Ireland will have to shell out as much as €500m in fines.

According to the Irish Examiner, the Government is now hoping things can turn around so that we can meet the carbon reduction targets set for 2030, which one report described as being “unambitious” for the country.

“CO2 emissions are lower than they were, notwithstanding a significant increase in population, but we are nowhere near close to reaching our target of a 20pc reduction by 2020,” the Taoiseach said. “With the reduction likely to be closer to 1pc, it is evident that we will not reach our 2020 targets but I do think we will meet our 2030 targets. I am determined that we should do so for renewable energy and CO2 emissions.”

With official confirmation, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, TD, did not hold back in his criticism, describing it as an “extraordinary story of failure”.

“The Taoiseach is in a position to outline how much he thinks can be afforded in tax giveaways for the next five years, so surely he, or the Government, has some idea as to how much it will cost to purchase carbon credits or pay the fines we might face as a result of our failure to meet our climate change targets by 2020? The failure is dramatic,” he said.

Promised increase in carbon taxes

Following the announcement of Budget 2019 last month, the Government was widely criticised for reversing a decision that would have seen the introduction of a €10 increase in carbon tax.

At the time, Oisín Coghlan, budgetary spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar, said the decision was a “two-fingers to everyone under 35, a two-fingers to the Paris Agreement and a two-fingers to the hundreds of millions of people already living with the devastating impacts of climate change in Africa, Asia and Latin America”.

The Government has promised that increasing carbon taxes will apply in future budgets, but has not specified what this will entail. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department of Communications, Climate Change and Environment said it is negotiating with other EU member states to purchase carbon and renewable credits, which it hopes will alleviate some of the fines Ireland will face.

Meanwhile, the Government recently approved to pay €5.73m in annual instalments – starting this year for the next four years – to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) trust fund, which is managed by the UN and World Bank. It provides grants to developing countries for a range of environmental projects, including to make the adjustments necessary to respond to climate change.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic