The Minister will shortly be considering public submissions and the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action concerning the programme of three five-year carbon budgets proposed by the Climate Change Advisory Council. These budgets are required to comply with last year’s Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act which mandates that the budget programme must be consistent with Ireland’s obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement. To comply with the specific commitments in the Programme for Government, the budgets also require to be aligned with a 51% reduction in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

An Taisce supports the evidence given by a group of independent scientists to the Joint Oireachtas Committee, currently considering what advice to give to the Minister, that the proposed budgets should be revised downward (i.e., requiring faster and deeper emission reductions) on a number of grounds.

  1. The average 4.8% per year reduction proposed for the period from 2021 to 2025 is unjustifiably low, and any slippage in achieving this entails a high risk that the average rate proposed for the second period 2026-30, currently 8.3% per year, would have to be increased to a level that may then prove both technically and socially unattainable. The ‘kicking the can down the road’ approach being proposed on the grounds of immediate feasibility is unconvincing and has been a proven recipe for failure in climate policies over many years. Effective measures to combat the climate emergency can be taken in the short term. The political and societal will must be found and mobilised in a way that protects and secures social solidarity, and ensures a just transition similar to the impressive responses made over the past two years in relation to the pandemic emergency.  

  2. In An Taisce’s view, the proposed budgets are not consistent with Ireland’s obligations under the Paris Agreement as required by the Act. The UN has warned that unless global average greenhouse gas emissions fall at a rate equivalent to 7.6% each year between 2020 and 2030, the world will almost certainly fail to meet the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement. As a developed country with the second highest per capita emissions and the second highest per capita GDP in the EU, Ireland should be targeting emission reductions that are greater than the required 7.6% global average, not less. Indeed the proposed carbon budgets fail the Climate Change Advisory Council’s own “Paris Test” if aviation and shipping are included, or if any realistic consideration of ‘historical responsibility’ is incorporated.

  3. Any failure to reduce agriculture, forestry and land use emissions at the high annual rates required to meet the CCAC’s carbon budgets, or more stringent ones aligned with the Paris Agreement, means that energy emissions (from heating, transport and electricity generation) must fall far more quickly. Given the rise in agricultural emissions since 2010, and the projected rise in land use emissions, greater focus on enforcing near-term reductions in high emitting beef and dairy production, reducing forest harvest rates, and ending peat extraction, is needed to ensure delivery of carbon budgets is equitable between sectors. Cutting agricultural methane substantially by 2030 is especially critical. The radical changes that agriculture must undergo will require great sensitivity and will entail careful implementation of a 'just transition'. Even so, energy demand reduction, in transport particularly, will be important to enable a less costly transition.

An Taisce urges the Minister to recognise that significantly stricter action to rapidly reduce emissions is already required in the immediate period to 2025 (the first carbon budget period), to ensure that the state meets its legal obligations and acts decisively to align ourselves with the global emergency response now needed to keep the critical Paris 1.5°C temperature goal within reach. Hard choices are required in the short term and serious consideration should be given to following the independent scientific advice to significantly tighten the proposed carbon budgets before the allocation among sectors commences.