Ireland remains near bottom of class in international climate action – study

9th December 2019
Press Release

Ireland continues to be among the worst performing countries in the EU on climate action, despite slight improvements in our ranking, according to a major international survey published today.

“In policy and practice Ireland is making all the wrong policy and investment decisions”, according to Ian Lumley head of Advocacy with An Taisce, speaking from the CoP25 climate conference in Madrid. “When it comes to concrete action across all key greenhouse gas (GHG) emission impact sectors, from energy and transport to agriculture, we are on a multiple trajectory to failure”.

Despite improved rhetoric this year, “there is still no Government wake-up to the fact that we are now in a Climate Emergency”, Lumley continued. “The notion of there being a meaningful ‘all-of-Government Climate Action Plan’ is without foundation”.

The newly published 2020 Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) jointly produced by Germanwatch, the NewClimate Institute and the Climate Action Network ranks almost 60 states based on a series of criteria (1). Ireland was described as a ‘low’ performer by the CCPI, in 41st place, an improvement over last year’s ‘very low’ (48th place) rating.

Ireland’s best performance was in its share of renewable energy, which earned it an overall ‘high’ rating in the Renewable Energy category, while Ireland also improved in the Energy Use category, from low to ‘medium’ performers. However, continuing lack of progress in decarbonising agriculture, road transport and the residential sectors was noted.

The CCPI acknowledges that the Irish government’s new Climate Action Plan’s governance proposals, such as introducing legally binding five-year carbon budgets are positive, if enacted into law as a matter of urgency. Overall, it finds that the Irish government ‘must go much further in implementing policies across all sectors that drive sustained emissions reductions over the next decade’.

The CCPI added that Ireland’s near-term ambition ‘needs to be ratcheted up quickly by specifying deep cuts in fossil fuel and reactive nitrogen usage to put Ireland on a net zero emissions pathway aligned with the Paris temperature goals’.

Despite some sectoral improvements noted above, the CCPI warn that Ireland’s per-capita emissions remain high, and we face ‘significant challenges’ in meeting our current 2030 emissions targets and in aligning Ireland for a net zero goal by 2050.

Ireland ranks poorly on the international climate stage, having lobbied at EU level for less demanding targets, primarily in defence of ‘the economic importance of the agricultural sector’. Ireland has also failed to explicitly support EU ambition to increase the 2030 emissions reductions target from 40–55%.

Contacts:

Ian Lumley, Head of Advocacy (+353-83 153 2384)

John Gibbons, PRO, An Taisce Climate Committee (087-2332689)

(1) Please see link to the embargoed 2020 Climate Change Performance Index report: https://www.climate-change-performance-index.org/

Additional An Taisce Sector-by-Sector Notes and Commentary on Ireland's CCPI assessment

ENERGY

a) Government has continued promotion and licensing of offshore gas drilling.

b) Development of the proposed Shannon LNG plant, which would facilitate importation of fracked gas from the US, has continued.

c) The strategy of the State utility company Gas Networks Ireland in expanding the fossil gas network with the misleading aspirational objective of future Carbon Capture and Storage development and biomethane injection into the fossil gas pipeline system.  GNI’s biomethane projections are based on a massive and unacceptable decrease in nutrient use efficiency: greatly increasing production of grass and slurry by maximising use of highly polluting nitrogen fertiliser, without appropriately costing the resulting pollution.

d) Promotion of Data Centres without integrated renewable energy strategy within a stated, Paris-aligned carbon quota.     

TRANSPORT

a) Failed 2009 Government Department of Transport “Smarter Travel" policy target of reducing car dependence.

b) Major  Government investment has been directed to increasing  car use and dependence with a nationwide programme of new Motorways and dual Carriageways.

c) Investment in increasing car capacity into approach roads around Dublin including N11 from Co Wicklow. 

d)  A new Dublin Airport Runway on which construction has commenced.

AGRICULTURE

a) A National Government supported strategy promoting expansion of beef, dairy and infant formula manufacture for export, with continued issue of permits for increasing milking sheds and three new cheese factories in the last year.

b) While the phasing out of the Irish peat power plants is welcome, unquantified and unregulated peat extraction for export across Europe is continuing. This is equivalent to is an open cast mining process removing vegetation and extracting peat cover to 4 metres deep.

c) Dairy expansion has only been made possible by a massive increasing in nitrogen fertiliser imports, which is causing major increases in environmental nitrogen pollution including: greenhouse gas pollution by nitrous oxide and methane (from more grass); air pollution by ammonia (already exceeding legal limits); and water and soil pollution by nitrates.

d) The dairy and beef exporter-processors continue to drive agri-food strategies in Ireland that have driven up total nitrous oxide and methane emissions, facilitated by Government, the Department of Agriculture and Teagasc, contrary to all stated climate policy aims. Climate mitigation in agriculture by all of these bodies has been an unqualified failure. The Taoiseach now needs to take direct responsibility for achieving year on year reductions in absolute agricultural emissions, without fail. Capping and rapidly reducing nitrogen imports in fertiliser and feed need to be a priority.

FORESTRY

a) Due to over-harvest relative to past planting, Ireland’s existing managed forest is already a net source of carbon dioxide emissions rather than a sink for removals of CO2 from atmosphere. Even including afforestation (mostly planting of conifers) Ireland’s forestland is on course to be a net emitter of carbon by 2030. Increased harvest for biomass energy threatens to worsen this outlook still further. Policy needs to be redirected toward greatly reducing clear-cut harvest extraction and instead increasing continuous cover forestry by biodiverse native mixed woodland in appropriate locations.

FINANCE (not inporporated in the CCPI ranking)

a) Ireland has allowed greatly increased amounts of ‘phantom’ Foreign Direct Investment that undermine fair international tax collection and effectively allow shifting of the profits from high carbon sectors such as aircraft leasing that create emissions in other nations. Contrary to climate justice, Ireland does not bear any financial penalty for the negative climate pollution consequences result of this positive addition to Irish GDP. Ireland has been described as one of the world’s top six tax havens. See: https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2019/09/the-rise-of-phantom-FDI-in-tax-havens-damgaard.htm