An Taisce Challenges Transport and Agriculture to 'Get Their Heads Out of the Sand' and Actually achieve their agreed 2020 Climate Targets
An Taisce welcomes the statement by Minister Alan Kelly that the Government is willing (finally) to accept some limited but meaningful amendments to the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015. We especially note the proposed formal reference to the April 2014 National Policy Position on Climate Change, which sets out specific, minimum, national targets governing emissions reduction between now and 2050.
These concessions were unnecessarily belated, and still fall far short of meeting the scale and urgency demanded by the climate challenge. Nonetheless, this is a clear victory for those citizens and organisations who campaigned relentlessly for honest and meaningful legislation, and proves that – with widespread community mobilisation – serious political change is possible. The Bill must still be enacted, and that must be done without further procrastination; but then the battle moves on, and we must test the political will to replace mere words with commensurate actions.
Ireland has legally binding 2020 targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% compared to 2005 levels. However, no Irish Government has ever specified how the overall 2020 target is to be shared – i.e., what each sector must do to meet the required total reduction. Therefore we must assume that each sector must achieve the same 20% reduction as the aggregate target.
In that light, An Taisce is very seriously concerned that the Irish Government, and the Departments of Transport and Agriculture in particular, appear to be already preparing to renege on their targets (note 1). In the notes below and the spreadsheet provided, An Taisce provides data on what the implied sectoral 2020 targets are, and details the shortfall that now needs to be urgently addressed in the limited time remaining before then (notes 2, 3). The data shows that the main reason for this unacceptable shortfall is the dismal failure to cut emissions in transport and agriculture. Rather than the 20% reduction, transport is set to achieve nothing at all. Agriculture is set for only a 4% fall, which has been further reinforced just this week by the publication of “Food Wise 2025”, a new “10-year vision for the Irish Agri-food industry” (note 4). Despite an entire chapter dedicated to “sustainability”, there is still no concrete sectoral commitment to absolute emissions reduction of any level.
If the Government disagrees with our figures we would like to know their “alternative” plan: and specifically which sectors will be required to over-achieve, and by how much, in order to allow other, more “privileged”, sectors to fall short.
Prof. Barry McMullin, Chair of An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee stated:
The projected emissions data from the Environmental Protection Agency show starkly this Government’s sustained failure, over four years in office, to set a viable decarbonisation pathway for the economy as a whole, and for agriculture and transport in particular. They repeatedly emphasise the need to find “minimal cost” actions; while utterly neglecting the mounting costs of failure to act – directly to ourselves, but especially to those in underdeveloped parts of the world, who have done least to cause the problem, but suffer the worst impacts of our continuing emissions extravagance.
The Government Departments for Agriculture and Transport have their ‘Heads in the Sand’, effectively denying their responsibilities to Irish citizens to enable rapid deep decarbonisation in their sectors. To date their preferred future policy is to ‘flatline emissions’. In other words, their “plan” is simply to continue “pollution as usual”.
As this Saturday’s “Heads in the Sand” event at Sandymount at 11.am (note 5) will illustrate, our Government and all Irish citizens need to wake up to climate reality. Past inaction means that this now requires urgent and radical emission reductions, across all sectors, based on the limited remaining greenhouse gas budget available to us (note 6).
An Taisce challenges all Irish politicians, but especially those currently in government, to state their emission reduction targets for each sector to 2020. Otherwise, the implied target for each sector – for energy, buildings and agriculture – must default to the overall target of ‘minus 20% compared to 2005’; and commensurate policy actions are badly overdue.
- Ireland is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 to a level 20% lower than in 2005 in the group of buildings, transport and agriculture sectors combined. This is the so-called ‘non-ETS’ group of sectors that makes up the national emissions that are not traded within in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Agriculture comprises over 44% of Ireland’s non-ETS sector and transport 26%.
- EPA (2015) Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Projections 2014-2035: http://tinyurl.com/paznjhh [PDF]
- Link to spreadsheet showing past and projected emissions from the EPA along with An Taisce calculations of the minus 20% targets for all sectors that is implied by government failure to divide the target among different sectors. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKEdG5wSXdKRmNuRWc/view?usp=sharing
- Food Wise 2025 http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/agri-foodindustry/foodwise2025/report/htmlfiles/contents.htm
- Stop Climate Chaos protest event in Dublin, Saturday 4th July 2015. http://tinyurl.com/oq5svjs
- “Human activity keeps adding Greenhouse Gases – It is the Cumulative Total that must be limited to avoid abrupt Climate Change”, An Taisce briefing, September 2014. http://tinyurl.com/oxmsryk