RTÉ News has seen a draft report from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on climate action.

While the text will change before publication - it gives an insight into what TDs and Senators believe is required for Ireland to finally achieve its climate change targets. 

Overview 

The draft report is very blunt in its analysis as to how the State has dealt with climate change up to now.

It observes governments signed-up to targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but didn't live-up to any of them. Ireland will, it notes, miss its 2020 targets by what it terms "a very wide margin".

It quotes the Climate Change Performance Index which ranked Ireland as the worst performing EU country.

The report says the Oireachtas Committee is of the "strong view" that Ireland must move quickly to put the structures and systems in place to make Ireland compliant.

The ultimate aim, however, is for Ireland to be a "world leader."

Structural Changes 

The draft lists several "key priorities" for the government. They include enacting new climate change legislation this year.

The Committee wants a 2030 emissions reduction target to be created next year. It also wants a five-year carbon budget, to help achieve the 2030 target.

The report says there is an urgent need for a coherent all-of-Government approach, led by the Department of the Taoiseach.

It says a new Oireachtas Committee should be created to hold Ministers and public bodies to account.

It also says the Climate Change Advisory Council should be replaced by a new Climate Action Council with enhanced powers to ensure action is taken, in line with the national objectives.

Carbon Tax

At present, Ireland has a carbon tax of €20 per tonne which is levied on fossil fuels. The Committee believes it should be increased gradually in order to change consumer behaviour.

It says the Minister for Finance should introduce legislation this year which would see the carbon tax rise "to at least €80 per tonne by 2030".

The report says however, in tandem with an increasing carbon tax, there should also be measures to protect the most vulnerable. 

The ESRI has estimated that a €5 increase in carbon tax, would cost the poorest households €0.45 per week and the richest households €2.30.

A €60 increase in carbon tax by 2030, would suggest the poorest households would pay an additional €280 per year and the richest households €1,435 per year.

However, the Committee is assessing a proposal that tax credits be given back to households who lower their emissions.

Citizens Assembly 

This report flows from a Citizens Assembly which met to consider what Ireland needs to do on climate change.

However, the Oireachtas Committee was not bound to adopt every aspect of the Assembly's recommendations.

For example, the Assembly recommended there should be a tax on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

However that is not included in one of the eight priority recommendations in the Agriculture section of the report.

Just Transition 

The report strongly favours "Just Transition" - the strategy which tries to balance the requirement for environmental sustainability with ensuring it delivers decent work, social inclusion and poverty eradication.

The report points to the fact that the Moneypoint coal-fired power plant is due to close because it produces so much carbon emissions.

The report says: "Now is the time to start engaging with the community and developing new employment opportunities and re-skilling workers to enable a smooth transition with broad community buy-in and benefits. Communities should not be left on their own to manage the impacts of the transition as this will not lead to a fair distribution of costs and benefits."

Buildings 

The report says that residential and public building stock represented 11% of Ireland's overall greenhouse gas emissions in 2017.

The main problem is that too much of our housing stock has a low Building Energy Rating and the majority of those are using fossil fuel for heating.

The big push from the Committee is a recommendation that the Government target of delivering 45,000 homes per annum from 2021 is increased incrementally to 75,000 homes.

By building more energy efficient homes and retro-fitting old buildings - Ireland can drive down emissions in this sector. 

Transport problems 

The language of the report is stark - not a shock given emissions from this sector account for one fifth of Ireland's total output.

The draft report says that stabilising and reducing emissions must be tackled "urgently and aggressively" if Ireland is to have any hope of reaching our 2030 obligations.

The report suggests the "urgent delivery" of proposed investment under Project 2040 - the Government’s new infrastructural plan. 

Outstanding Issues

This is a draft report - and it indicates that the Oireachtas Committee still has to take some big decisions.

One question TDs and Senators must grapple with is a suggestion that "the retention of Moneypoint as a coal burning facility until at the very latest 2025 may be necessary for energy security and Just Transition reasons and to meet peak electricity demand." 

The final report is due to be published in the coming weeks.