Failing to plan means planning for failure: Irish GHGs continue to climb

13th April 2017
Press Release

Today’s announcement by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) set out Ireland’s staggering catalogue of failure in grasping the challenge of climate change and the need to achieve urgent, sustained and ambitious decarbonisation of all aspects of our economy.

Apart from missing our modest EU-mandated targets to achieve a 20% emissions cut by 2020 (versus 2005) by a mile, even more worrying is the apparent intention of the Irish state to do virtually nothing to honour our legal and moral commitments to play our part in a concerted international effort to rein in emissions before climate destabilisation leads to what the scientific community warns will be an irreversible global catastrophe.

Unbelievably, the EPA projections suggest Ireland’s national emissions will be 3.58% higher in 2030 than in 2016. Our National Policy Position, based on achieving at least 80% decarbonisation by 2050, has Ireland on track to have more than halved our total national emissions by 2030. Instead, on current policy, they are actually continuing to increase.

“This is a stunning failure of political leadership and vision. Many Irish people have looked aghast at the Trump administration’s dismantling of environmental regulations and abandonment of climate change targets, yet while the rhetoric in Ireland is less extreme, the reality is little better in terms of our own capitulation to vested interests and betrayal of future generations”, according to John Gibbons of An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee.

According to the EPA report, Agriculture and Transport are projected to account for 74% of Ireland’s non-ETS sector emissions in 2020 (agriculture: 45%, transport: 29%)). For the period 2015-2020, agriculture emissions are projected to increase by 4–5%. Reflecting the chaotic failure to plan strategically, Transport emissions are projected to increase rapidly over the period to 2020 with a 10–12% increase on 2015 levels.

The EPA report must place serious question marks over the idea that our agriculture sector, far and away the largest source of pollution in Ireland, can be allowed to achieve something as vague as ‘carbon neutrality’, which appears to include availing of ‘land use’ loopholes to try and offset our sky-high emissions associated with having a food production system dominated by GHG-intensive beef and dairy output.

For instance, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with ‘Enteric fermentation’ (ie. methane from ruminants such as cattle and sheep) produces 10.8 million tonnes of GHG emissions annually. This is more pollution for one sub-sector of agriculture than produced by every household in Ireland (6.0 million tonnes) plus Commercial Public Services (1.97 million tonnes) plus all Wastes (885 thousand tonnes) combined.

Meanwhile, Road Transportation, currently producing a whopping 12.5 million tonnes of GHGs, totally dominates the Transport sector, generating around 95% of total Transport emissions, and this is slated to continue to grow, all the way to 2035. Minister Shane Ross has to date shown precisely zero interest, understanding or engagement in the massive and growing pollution crisis associated with Ireland’s doomed love affair with the private car.

An Taisce endorses the comment by EPA director general Laura Burke when she noted that: “If we are to realise this policy position and our aspirations to transition to a low carbon economy, then any new measures to be included in the upcoming and future National Mitigation plans need to be innovative and effective to get Irelands emissions back on a sustainable trajectory”.

This confirms critiques by An Taisce and others of the extremely unambitious nature of the recently published draft National Mitigation Plan, and we urge Climate Minister Denis Naughten to go back to the Cabinet table and demand that his Taoiseach and fellow senior ministers finally start treating climate change like the grave political, economic and societal crisis that it is.

Poor levels of public understanding and engagement with climate change as an issue in Ireland may well be related to the patchy, haphazard media coverage it receives, with crackpot theories by public figures like Danny Healy-Rae and Michael O’Leary attracting far more media interest than coverage of the actual science.

John Gibbons of An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee concluded “We owe it to this generation and the next to get real about climate change – while we still can”.

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

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.