Ireland still among Europe’s climate laggards – new study Press release Despite improvements in our use of renewable energy, Ireland remains among the worst in Europe on overall climate action, according to the newly released 2021 Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) Index of almost 60 states. Overall, Ireland is ranked as a Low performer by the CCPI, coming in 39th place, a slight improvement over last year’s 41st place. Two years ago, Ireland was ranked as Very Low, in 48th place overall and tied for last place in the EU with Poland. Overall, Ireland remains firmly in the bottom half of EU nations in the new CCPI ranking. In the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions category, Ireland and Estonia are jointly the worst performing EU countries, with an overall Very Low rating in this category. Ireland’s poor emissions performance is due to its failure to limit rising agricultural emissions, especially due to continuing dairy expansion, as well as a lack of policy impact on transport emissions. The CCPI 2021 results rank countries based on standardised criteria for emissions, renewables, energy use, and climate policy, as well as input from local NGOs in each state (1). “Ireland has yet to take climate action seriously in planning or achieving concrete action across sectors with high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, specifically in agriculture, transport and heat”, said John Gibbons, PRO for An Taisce’s climate change committee, in response to the new Index. Overall, not one country surveyed is yet on a path to fully achieving the targets set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The COVID-19 pandemic-induced drop in emissions will only be temporary unless deep structural changes are implemented now to drive and achieve a low carbon transformation of energy use and agricultural production. In terms of climate action the new CCPI 2021 ranks Ireland as Very Low for GHG emissions, Low for climate policy, Medium for energy use, and High for renewable energy. Ireland’s High rating in the Renewable Energy category is due to its renewable energy ambition and grid development for renewables, even though it has underperformed in community energy, renewable heat and the likely negative impact of increased future data centre energy demand. “In the CCPI 2021 Index, Ireland does better under Renewable Energy but even if the policy objectives of 70% of electricity by renewables are achieved this will only count as an effective climate action if Ireland’s total use of coal, peat, oil and gas go down substantially in every year from now onward”, Gibbons added. “Looking forward, if Ireland is to improve in international rankings like CCPI then it will need to credibly align its policy actions with the Paris Agreement. Specifically, the new Climate Bill will need to be strengthened and Government policy will need to face up to vested interests that are driving continued fossil carbon usage, through petroleum exploration, transport and industry, and ever more fertiliser use on grass, driving up methane and nitrogen pollution from dairy and beef production”, said Gibbons. Climate damages are beginning to impact seriously on us all and on nature. We have a responsibility to act now while there is still time and capacity to limit and stop the future impacts of our actions now. Now is the time to get serious in reducing Ireland’s total use of fossil fuels and fertiliser nitrogen every year. By setting limits we can choose how to meet them as a society, to act together on climate and biodiversity, for all our futures and for nature. NOTES: (1) The Climate Change Performance Index 2021 is jointly produced by Germanwatch and the NewClimate Institute, and published with the Climate Action Network (#CCPI2021) and is available from December 7, 2020 at www.ccpi.org In its survey response to CCPI 2021, An Taisce called for the following actions in Ireland: GHG emissions: Fossil and land carbon: Strong interim targets and fair share Paris-aligned cumulative carbon budgets to be enacted in the Climate Bill and made clear in policy with full accountability by Ministers and Department heads for failure and requirements to ensure under-achievement is made good. Reactive nitrogen: Urgent need to limit and reverse increases in the use of reactive nitrogen in fertiliser and feed for intensive dairy and beef production. Plans to ramp up biogas production from grass grown using even more N fertiliser need to be stopped. Fossil Fuel Reduction and Renewable Energy: Plan fossil fuel import/use reduction within rapid decarbonisation pathways that are constrained to meet Paris-aligned carbon budgets. This constraint on fossil fuel use would drive far greater energy efficiency AND emissions reduction. Close Moneypoint and Edenderry power stations by 2025 at latest. Limit data centres in Ireland build out. Enforce strict sustainability criteria on biomethane production with strict monitoring and enforcement of fugitive emissions limits on anaerobic digestion. Energy Use: Transport: Integrate transport planning within a rapid fossil fuel reduction pathway to limit personal car use. Expand E-bus, E-bike usage. Industry: Require annual reductions pathway for total emissions (no offsets). Buildings: Greatly increased roll-out of retrofit programme. Building industry needs increased enforcement of standards. Rental stock requires minimum energy rating. End domestic fossil fuel burning by combined retrofit and heat electrification. Non-Energy Sectors: Forestry: eNGOs lobbied to stop or amend the proposed Forestry Bill. Harvest now needs to be limited because of overharvest relative to past planting, such that sequestration rate is decreasing. Wetlands: End peat mining, protect raised bogland, and enforce Habitats Directive to limit carbon loss due to peatland drainage and loss. Agriculture: Enforce a limit on total reactive nitrogen usage (limit N fertiliser and feed imports) – reinstituting a milk quota would do this indirectly, else tax N. Nitrogen budgets by river basin and farm type are urgently needed. Climate Policy: International performance Lead by example. As an individual UNFCCC member, set out an equitable, science-based remaining carbon quota target aligned with meeting the Paris Agreement (with a distinct budget for gross emissions and gross removals). In particular, lead on reducing total nitrogen usage to dairy and beef agriculture (reversing the methane and nitrous pollution increases since 2010).