An Taisce questions Ibec’s presentation to Oireachtas Committee

3rd July 2018
Press Release

Is IBEC, Ireland’s largest business lobby group, misrepresenting academic energy and climate research to the Oireachtas Committee now discussing the important Climate Emergency Measures Bill?

Today, Tuesday 3 July 2018, IBEC is presenting the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment with its position document opposing the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018. The Bill aims to prohibit further oil and gas exploration in Irish waters. This is an essential initial step in Ireland’s transition from insecure carbon fossil fuel dependence to the low carbon energy sources required for climate-secure future.

IBEC’s document claims “IBEC fully supports the 2015 Paris Agreement”. But the remainder of the document contradicts this assertion, instead supporting a high fossil fuel, high emissions future that is contrary to Paris-aligned climate action and risks Ireland’s energy security by failing to chart a cost-effective low carbon transition.

An Taisce strongly supports the Climate Emergency Measures Bill. The Bill is a first step that anyone who is sincerely concerned with Ireland’s energy security should have no difficulty whatsoever in supporting. By making an explicit national commitment to ending unnecessary fossil fuel exploration the Bill gives a strong societal declaration that Ireland means business in driving a focus on rapid, decarbonisation. Opposing this Bill is opposing Paris-aligned climate action.

Yet IBEC make it clear that they are against this Bill and in attempting to support this opposition it fails to fairly and fully report academic research. IBEC rightly stress the need for best-practice energy and climate modelling to chart a cost-effective, low carbon transition and, specifically, IBEC point to the high quality work by the energy modelling group at UCC (University College Cork). IBEC state that:

"Analysis published by UCC and ESRI in May 2017 projects a flat trend in liquid fossil fuel usage out to 2030, with a sharp reduction thereafter. However, it projects natural gas consumption to remain steady out to 2050".

This statement is supported by two graphics from the 2017 UCC-ESRI document and a Table from a 2013 UCC paper [see Note 1]. However, neither of these UCC references makes any claim to show an Irish transition pathway with emissions limited within a fair share limit of future CO₂ aligned with meeting the Paris temperature target. Indeed, both the 2017 document’s pathway (UCC call it “NMP-80”) and the 2013 Table pathway (UCC call this “CO₂-80”) differ significantly from each other in total cumulative CO2 emissions (the critical factor in driving climate change), even though they both result in an 80% reduction in emissions compared to 1990. And they both exceed a Paris-aligned emissions quota according to UCC research by 2050 [see Note 2].

Crucially, IBEC entirely fail to note that the UCC model results can only be claimed as a possible basis for decision-making if the modelled emission pathway and technology changes are actually being followed in reality. Even from 2016 level, Ireland’s CO₂ emissions would need to drop by about 16% by 2020 and by about 44% by 2030 in order to meet the 2013 emissions pathway followed by the 2013 UCC research.

An Taisce calls on IBEC to confirm that this level of near-term, strong decarbonisation targets are what they are advocating, so that their dependence on this research can be justified. If not, then it would appear that IBEC are cherry-picking the model results to suit a preference for business-as-usual fossil fuel use and exploration rather than demonstrating any meaningful commitment to Paris-aligned climate action.

Furthermore, as both of the two pathways referred to by IBEC fail to respect UCC’s Paris-aligned carbon quota for Ireland, why then do IBEC fail to reference UCC’s steeper “CO₂-95” emissions pathway to a 95% cut in emissions by 2050 compared to 1990? [see Note 3]. This pathway comes much closer to staying within the UCC-defined CO₂ quota.

IBEC also fail to reference the recent UCC research that shows the extreme urgency of radical near-term reductions in emissions if a least-cost transition is to be followed [see Figure 1 in Glynn et al. 2018, Note 2]. Again it seems that IBEC would rather not fully report these UCC findings.

In seemingly misrepresenting and cherry-picking from academic research in a way that supports a preference for continued dependence on high fossil fuel use, IBEC’s document advocates against and delays climate action, misdirecting efforts into continued further fossil carbon extraction and away from low carbon.

While claiming support for the Paris Agreement IBEC in fact appear to be advocating to the contrary, for sustained profits based on climate-polluting fossil fuel use, rather than for the cost-effective, near-term, decarbonisation action now urgently needed to secure greater long-term national well-being, as UCC research shows is now required.

An Taisce trusts that our decision-makers are not so easily fooled by such biased brokering of information. Oireachtas Committees need to call on energy and climate researchers to report their own research directly, to limit the risks of misrepresentation of academic research.

ENDS

For further information, contact:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

  1. Curtin, J. et al., 2017. Energy Modelling to Inform the National Mitigation Plan, UCC-ESRI.
    Chiodi, A. et al., 2015. The Role of Bioenergy in Ireland’s Low Carbon Future – Is it Sustainable? Journal of Sustainable Development of Energy, Water and Environment Systems, 3(2), pp.196–216.
  2. Glynn, J. et al., 2018. Zero carbon energy system pathways for Ireland consistent with the Paris Agreement. Climate Policy, 52, pp.1–13.
  3. Deane, P. et al., 2017. Technical support on developing low carbon sector roadmaps for Ireland Low Carbon Energy Roadmap for Ireland. ESRI-e4sma-UCC
    Chiodi, A. et al., 2013. Modelling the impacts of challenging 2050 European climate mitigation targets on Ireland’s energy system. Energy Policy, 53, pp.169–189:

Chiodi notes that:

  1. The CO2-80 pathway for energy CO2 assumes that Irish agriculture sector (and other non-CO2) emissions are also cut by 80% by 2050 compared to 1990.
  2. The CO2-95 pathway for energy CO2 assumes that Irish agriculture sector (and other non-CO2) emissions are cut by 50% by 2050 compared to 1990.
  3. If agriculture’s emissions remain at 2020 levels up to 2050 (as currently outlined by Teagasc) then Chiodi 2013 says that energy CO2 would need to fall by 127% by 2050, requiring substantial carbon dioxide removal with CO2 storage (CCS) starting well before 2050.

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.