Programme for Government’s 7pc emissions target gets mixed response

16 Jun 2020

Image: © markrhiggins/

The new programme for Government promises a 7pc average annual reduction in greenhouse emissions, receiving a mixed response from climate advocates.

The publishing of the programme for Government yesterday (15 June) stated that incoming ministers will look to commit to a 7pc average annual reduction in greenhouse emissions between next year and 2030.

This will amount to a 51pc reduction over the coming decade and will play a part in the Government’s target of making the country carbon neutral by 2050. It will be part of the Climate Action Bill, which will be introduced within the first 100 days of the new Government sitting in the Dáil, and will feature alongside the formation of a newly established Climate Action Council.

The new bill will also determine how five-year carbon budgets will be set, with the incoming Government set to follow the Danish model. This means that with changing scientific consensus and emerging technologies comes the need to re-evaluate goals set out in each carbon budget.

The programme for Government document says: “As we set our society on a trajectory towards net zero emissions by 2050, it is vital that there is adequate time and effort devoted to working with communities and sectors in designing and delivering the pathway to achieve the goal in a fair way.

“This fundamental step change in ambition and broadening of our target horizon to a 7pc reduction average per annum will be underpinned by the core philosophy of a just transition. We are committed to ensuring that no sector of society or community is left behind in the movement to a low-carbon future.”

‘Is it perfect? No’

Response to the Government’s promises have been mixed, with some praising its ambitions and others claiming it is a strategic political move not in line with reality.

Oisín Coghlan, director of Friends of the Earth Ireland, said: “This is by far the strongest programme for Government on climate action we have ever seen.

“Is it perfect? No. Is it everything we need to do? No. But it can put Ireland on the path to implementing the Paris Agreement and shed our climate laggard label. And in some areas Ireland would become a genuine world leader. The commitment to an average 7pc annual reduction in polluting emissions is a huge step forward.”

Trócaire CEO Caoimhe de Barra also referenced Ireland’s track record as a ‘climate laggard’, but said it is “very welcome to see strong commitments to finally playing our part in tackling this global crisis”.

“Climate change is threatening so many of the gains that have been made in the battle against extreme poverty,” she added. “It is welcome to finally see coherence between Ireland’s commitment to the world’s poor and our willingness to tackle the issue that is driving extreme poverty.”

‘Backloading’ climate commitments

The Stop Climate Chaos coalition described the programme for Government as a “vast improvement” on the plans revealed in 2016.

A spokesperson for the coalition, Sadhbh O’Neill, said: “If this is not carried out as a matter of urgency, precious time will be wasted and opportunities for emissions reduction will be missed.

“Setting targets that are in line with science means there is absolutely no time to waste. The incoming Government must begin to act on these commitments immediately in time for Budget 2021 in the autumn.”

However, speaking with RTÉ, Prof John Sweeney of Maynooth University was sceptical of the 7pc average annual reduction being achieved in the first five-year carbon budget, seeing it possibly as a means of pushing accountability onto the next Government.

“Backloading the 7pc commitment to the second half of this decade is not good and runs the risk of repeating the experience of the past, when aspirations and commitments were not realised,” he said.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic