Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten has said that Ireland is playing catch-up in relation to the country's obligations to climate change.

However he said that the "obligation is as much an opportunity as an obligation" and that in any event it is a "moral necessity and a vital national interest to take action".

Publishing Ireland's first statutory National Mitigation Plan, Mr Naughten said energy efficiency is central to this plan as using less energy and using it more efficiently is the most cost-effective and accessible way to tackle climate change.

He also said that the role of Government in this regard is to put the levers for change into the hands of the people.

The Government signed off on the plan last month, and today Cabinet deliberations aimed at getting a "whole of Government" approach to the issue got under way.

The plan contains a series of mitigation measures and actions to address the immediate climate challenge to 2020 and to prepare for the EU targets that Ireland will take on for 2030.

It will also begin the development of work to meet the objectives of the National Policy Position for 2050.

The policy measures and obligations concerns greenhouse gas emissions in the Electricity Generation, Built Environment, Transport, and Agriculture, Forest and Land Use sectors.

There are 106 distinct actions listed in the plan, most of which are not new.

However, there is a new commitment to robust implementation and oversight of the measures through a National Mitigation Plan High Level Steering Group which will be chaired by Mr Naughten.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Mr Naughten said that capital and budget plans will be informed by the climate agenda, and that there is a renewed focus in Government on the issue. 

He said that the Government is trying to encourage people to move to alternatives as and when they come available. He said that overtime when alternatives become available, the taxes on existing motor fuels will be increased. 

Mr Naughten said that while there is a lot of work to do, Ireland is one of the world leaders in relation to energy efficiency.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has claimed that the report lacks any detail on how Ireland is to achieve its emissions reduction targets.

He said the plan includes plenty of plans for yet more reviews, consultations and further economic analysis but little commitment to direct climate action that would set us on the right road.

The National Mitigation Plans provides some indications on where Government could focus its resources in this and forthcoming Budgets. The suggestions include the following:

  • Commitment to maintaining and expanding SEAI energy efficiency programmes.
  • Expansion of Local Authority energy upgrades programmes for social housing.
  • Funding for the proposed Renewable Heat Incentive.
  • Expanded funding for public transport and for cycling infrastructure.
  • Maintaining existing levels of grant aid and tax relief for electric vehicles.
  • Commitment that all new cars and van sold from 2030 be zero emission or zero emission capable.
  • Commitment to further refining the existing emissions-based taxation structure in the transport sector. 
  • Commitment to carbon taxation as a key driver of behavioural change with a message that increases in the tax will be phased in over time. 
  • A commitment to maintaining ongoing levels of grant aid for afforestation.
  • A commitment to further refining the incentive structure for on-farm update of measures to increase the carbon efficiency of agriculture.

Department of Culture recommended

A new report by an Oireachtas committee has recommended the establishment of a Department of Culture.

The Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has made 40 recommendations in its report.

It calls on the Government to look at taxing big foreign artists who perform concerts in Ireland.

It made no recommendations on changing the eligibility of the tax exemption scheme for artists.

The report calls on the Government to publish an action plan for the arts, culture and heritage.

It also wants the State to match the EU average of an investment of .6% of GDP in the arts, culture and heritage sectors.