Distant Ambitions in Energy White Paper

16th December 2015
Press Release

Today’s publication of the Energy White Paper(EWP) "Ireland's Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015- 2030" is long on ambition, but desperately short on detail as to how this radical transition can actually be delivered.

The EWP comes just days after the Paris Agreement. Both may be considered to have too distant ambitions but are a starting point for people to drive government for those needed ambitions.

At Paris, Ireland accepted a clear obligation, as a developed country, to take effective action to stay within its rapidly dwindling equitable share of the remaining Carbon Budget that could limit global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees C above pre industrial levels.

An Taisce accepts that the Energy Minister is personally committed to guiding Ireland on the pathway to a sustainable, energy-independent future, but we remain unconvinced that this EWP can deliver what Minister White clearly intends.

The EWP launch also comes just after yesterday’s publication by the EPA of Ireland's 2014 emission figures. These show a continuing trend from 2013 of rapidly rising Transport emissions at 2.5% over the previous year. While heating emissions declined by over 10%, this was in part resulting from a reduction in solid fuel, but was mainly because of a warmer winter, and not any action to improve national efficiency.

The EWP states that it "does not set out detailed proposals". However, the document, while claiming to cover energy policy for the period 2015 to 2039, lacks a 2030 target. The only target set out is a distant one that "emissions from the energy sector will be reduced by between 80% and 95%, compared to 1990 levels by 2050, and will fall to zero or below by 2100”. There was no mention of the fact that this is utterly inconsistent with the 1.5C goal that Ireland supposedly endorsed only last Saturday in Paris.

It was acknowledged at the launch that the “challenging” EU 2030 proposed 40% target would need to be met. Again, there was no mention of the fact that this EU target is also utterly inconsistent with the supposed 1.5C goal. More importantly there was no mention of how, exactly, Ireland proposes to act to “enhance ambition” - as solemnly agreed in Paris - to address that goal; for example, by immediately lobbying, at EU level, for the early adoption of stronger emissions reduction targets for 2020 and 2030.

The EWP is devoid of any commitment to effective carbon pricing. It puts, what should be the overarching consideration of sustainability, in equal place with “competitiveness”, thus projecting a continuing and significant gas dependence.

The EWP provides a welcome new commitment to promote community engagement via the concept of "energy citizens" and the promotion of intermediaries, like the Tipperary Energy Agency, to “combine expertise with local leadership and knowledge to engage citizens and support project development that delivers long term benefits for communities.”

We also welcome the formation of a National Energy Forum, which we trust will be allowed to undertake its remit of having “representatives of community and environmental groups … It will also work to simulate constructive and informed national debate on energy-related issues”.

The EWP is set out in the form of a range of policy objectives but, for instance, there is no exit date for peat electricity generation and subsidies, thereby leaving Bord na Mona’s plan to continue burning peat to 2030 to prevail. For a zero carbon future, the replacement of Moneypoint remains one of the most critical decisions and we concur with the statement that “Key decisions on the future of Moneypoint will be taken before 2020.”

In terms of energy security, the acknowledged fact that in order to meet global targets, we must keep at least 80% of fossil fuel in the ground makes exploration to meet rising demands and the possibility of using natural gas as a bridging fuel impossible.

The EWP also provides for continued support of "Smarter Travel" objectives. However, the publication of Smarter Travel in 2009 was not accompanied by the Interdepartmental Working Group, which is needed to achieve many of its measures.

ENDS

For further information, please call:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee Tel: +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