On 21 December, the Estonian EU Presidency and the European Parliament reached a provisional deal on the Effort Sharing Regulation to ensure further emission reductions in sectors falling outside the scope of the EU emissions trading system (ETS) for the period 2021-2030.

Most of Europe is taking its commitment to making emission reductions seriously, but Ireland has been rewarded for doing nothing at all toward any effective climate mitigation policy and not achieving any planning to cut whole-economy emissions. Ireland’s open economy continually rides the economic wave up to higher emissions with the added rubber-stamped push for increasing agri emissions under Food Wise 2025. The only effective Irish climate ‘policy’ appears to be economic recession. That’s a bad plan.

Ireland has been rewarded for taking the moral hazard of relying on other EU nations to achieve their reductions and for betting on no ongoing post-2020 enforcement of the 2020 targets. The new starting point voids the 2020 target and rewards Ireland’s currently fast-rising emissions. It also incentivises Ireland to increase emissions in the immediate future. New, large and poorly justified ‘flexibilities’ – including ‘offsets’ from forestry carbon uptake when soils and wetlands emit even more carbon than the forestry sequesters – will enable the appearance of compliance until very late toward 2030 at which point Ireland can again claim, as it has done repeatedly this time, that it was ‘all too difficult'.

Rewarding moral hazard takers in this way is a recipe for certain future failure. If even the EU cannot enforce international mitigation rules then that bodes very ill for the weakness of international carbon governance in general.

All this appears to be the result of Ireland playing a diplomatic blinder in delaying climate action on behalf of business as usual vested interests. That would not have been successful unless other nations were doing the same but as we know Ireland punches above its weight in leveraging diplomacy to abort climate action.

Those, like the IFA, spinning this result as a success for Ireland are those enabling and benefiting from ‘predatory delay’, aiming to prevent emissions regulation and levies on climate pollution, despite the costs for others. It’s an ‘All the Ds strategy’: achieving Delay by Diversion, Distraction, Disinformation and Denial. It is highly effective in assisting Irish vested interests to continue adding to climate instability. It is dismal, disastrous and dangerous for our collective future.

Imagine if instead all this hard work by Irish politicians had been in the cause of action, ability and achievement. Imagine if rather than procrastinating and then saying targets are “too challenging” Ireland’s Government and departments actually made the difficult decisions aligned with the Paris Agreement and set policies to cut total emissions rapidly steadily year-on-year, every year.

We need to do more than imagine though. Ireland is failing to deliver and is instead acting as an architect for further failure. It’s past time to act. An Taisce urges Ireland’s citizens, businesses and institutions to contact their politicians to drive climate action now.


For further information, contact:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: [email protected]
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland


Headline Aims of proposed deal:

  • Non-ETS sectors (agriculture, transport, buildings, waste, smaller industry and F-gases) are to achieve a 30% overall reduction across the EU by 2030 compared to 2005 through nations achieving individual targets with the help of a new Starting Point and new Flexibilities, with a requirement to meet two Compliance checks.

Starting Point: To be based on average 2016-2018 emissions to start in May 2019

  • This is a massive let-off for Ireland. Rather than starting from the 2020 target of -20% relative to 2005 levels, the target is reset to Ireland’s 2016-2018 failure level of only about -5% relative to 2005 emissions.
  • So Ireland has an incentive to drive up emissions as high as possible in 2016-2018 to get an easier overall target. So far that’s exactly what is playing out.
  • (Note: Barring economic downturns and Brexit, Irish non-ETS emissions are currently on track to return to the 2005 level by 2020, so Ireland is on track to have achieved nothing at all.)
  • If there is any financial penalty for non-compliance with the EU2020 target it may only be applied as a one off payment rather than an ongoing failure.

Targets: * As with the 2020 target, nations are given a linear pathway from their Starting Point 2019 emissions to their 2030 target. Summing the allowed emissions over 2020 to 2030 gives the cumulative target. * Ireland has been given a -30% relative to 2005 target but has been awarded 9.6% in ‘flexibilities’ that reduce this to about -20.4%. Effectively, Ireland has managed to obtain a 2030 target that is much the same as the 2020 target.


  • Land use carbon dioxide ‘removals’ by forestry and possibly by soils are to be allowed up to a set amount for each nation. Ireland has been allocated a large -5.6%.
  • Trouble is that Irish afforestation (even if desirable, e.g. biodiversity & pollution problems) is not achieving level needed to ensure forest carbon stock increases.
  • Also land use in Ireland is a net emitter to the tune of over 4 MtCO₂e/yr even accounting for over 4 MtCO₂e ‘removals’ by forestry and soils due to over 8 MtCO₂e/yr in emissions from grasslands and wetlands.
  • An additional 4% comes out of transfers of allocations in the ETS sector. The ETS is plagued by free allocations.

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.