Another Climate Change reality check - this time from the Climate Change Advisory Council
An Taisce broadly welcomes the publication today by the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) of its Annual Review [Note 1]. We strongly endorse the Council’s core finding that Ireland is completely off track in terms of meeting either its near term (2020) or longer-term target of a rapid decarbonisation before mid-century.
In its Executive Summary, the CCAC warns that Ireland will miss its 2030 and 2050 targets “by a very large margin”. It notes that both the pace and scale of emissions reduction need to be accelerated across all sectors.
Among its recommendations is for a planned and substantial increase in the carbon tax in the coming years, as well as phasing out of coal and peat for both residential heating and power generation and, in particular, ending the subsidy for peat-fired electricity generation. An Taisce fully supports and endorses all these objectives.
EPA director general Laura Burke recently told the Citizens’ Assembly that peat burning provided “a triple negative hit”, and pointed out that, per megawatt of electricity, peat receives four times more subsidy than clean wind power. To continue to force electricity users to subsidise such a patently inefficient, highly polluting sector as peat, defies logic. Ireland has the 3rd highest residential emissions per capita in Europe. Oil and gas heating systems are still widely used. “This has significant implications for both greenhouse gas emissions and air quality, and it has significant negative impacts on health,” according to Council chair, Prof John FitzGerald.
While dramatic recent improvements in building standards mean this should improve with time, there are still well over a million Irish homes that could benefit from State-supported major energy retrofitting to reduce or even eliminate the need for fossil fuel-based domestic heating systems.
An Taisce supports the funding and roll-out of a massive nationwide retrofitting programme, which could bring thousands of jobs to villages and towns all over Ireland, while helping reduce pollution and sharply cut our dependence on imported fossil fuels. Imaginative ways of putting low cost finance in place should make this retrofitting programme largely self-financing and available to people on lower incomes.
On transport, the CCAC advises rebalancing spending away from roads and towards public transport, which it argues would make “a significant contribution to minimising future emissions”. We strongly support this, and would single out the urgent need for a major investment in cycling infrastructure. This is the single most cost-effective way of delivering on emissions reductions while creating cleaner, safer, less congested cities and towns and improving public health, especially among schoolchildren.
On agriculture, the Council says: “All cost-effective measures to reduce emissions in the agriculture and land sector should be adopted, and there remains a pressing need to define what is meant by carbon neutrality”.
An Taisce is disappointed that the CCAC did not, for instance, follow the lead of the IPCC AR5 report, published in 2013, in recommending a society-wide shift towards a reduction in meat consumption (“Shifting consumption away from animal products, especially from ruminant sources, in high-meat-consumption societies toward less carbon-intensive healthy diets”).
The fundamental problem with Irish agriculture is its near-total dependence on emissions-intensive beef and dairy production, despite the fact that the majority of Irish beef farmers are actually losing money, and only remain solvent due to CAP payments from the EU.
Despite some reservations outlined above, An Taisce very much welcomes the findings and recommendations set out in the CCAC’s Annual Review and applauds it in particular for calling out the inadequacies and lack of ambition in the government’s current National Mitigation Plan.
The CCAC was set up to be an independent agency overseeing government climate policy to ensure it complied with our international obligations and took the science of climate change into account.
John Gibbons, An Taisce's Climate Change Spokesperson stated "An Taisce is heartened to see the Council beginning to warm to its task".
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
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
 The full CCAC Review document is available here http://www.climatecouncil.ie/media/ClimateChangeAdvCouncil_AnnualReview2017FINAL.pdf
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.