Ireland shamed as a ‘laggard’ after dismal EU climate action ranking

18 Jun 2018

Hurricane Ophelia hitting the coast of Tramore, Co Waterford, in 2017. Image: Andrzej Golik/Shutterstock

Advocates for environmental protection in Ireland might want to look away now as new EU rankings show the country is the second-worst in Europe for climate action.

For anyone who has followed Ireland’s attempts to meet EU-set carbon emission reduction targets over the past few years, news that the country is one of the worst in Europe for fighting climate change will come as no surprise.

In a document released by Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, Ireland has been ranked second-last in the EU, just ahead of Poland, due to its “stiff opposition to climate action nationally and in the EU”.

In the country-focus section of the report, it highlighted Ireland’s expectation to miss its 2020 climate and renewable energy targets, in addition to being off-course for its “unambitious” 2030 targets as emissions from the transport and agricultural sectors increase significantly.

The likelihood now is that Ireland will be hit with a €500m non-compliance fine for failing to meet these targets. CAN Europe called out existing and previous governments for trying to push for loopholes to dilute the EU 2030 climate and energy legislation.

In its recommendations, it calls on the country to end all use of peat in electricity production by the end of next year, in addition to its coal power plants by 2025.

Ireland climate rankings

The CAN Europe rankings of country performance in climate action. Image: CAN Europe

‘Laggard rather than a leader’

At a policy level, CAN Europe calls on the Government to radically revise its National Mitigation Plan, which has already stoked controversy after a legal challenge was put to legislators by the Irish environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment for inaction on climate change last year.

There was also a suggestion that recommendations made by the Citizens’ Assembly should be implemented at a regional and national level.

Given the news, reaction has been visceral towards the Irish Government, particularly from Jennifer Higgins, policy and advocacy adviser at Christian Aid Ireland, who was one of the contributors to the CAN Europe report.

“This report, and Ireland’s dismal ranking, clearly shows that Ireland continues to be bottom of the pack when it comes to tackling climate change, further reinforcing our status as a laggard rather than a leader when it comes to ambition on climate change,” she said.

A similar view was taken by Niamh Garvey, head of policy and advocacy at Trócaire (another CAN member), who said: “This report reaffirms what we know: that political leadership is urgently needed to turn Ireland’s record around on climate change.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic