The State's climate change watchdog has warned that Ireland is completely off course when it comes to meeting its 2020 and 2030 climate change targets.

The Climate Change Advisory Council also says Ireland will struggle to meet the Government's objective of decarbonising the economy by 2050.

Established two years ago, the council is an independent statutory body whose role is to review national climate policy and advise government on how Ireland can move to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy and society by the middle of the decade.

In a hard hitting annual review for 2018 the council calls for an increase in the carbon tax from the current €20 a tonne to €30 a tonne in the upcoming budget, and €80 a tonne by 2030.

It claims this is necessary because the current level of the carbon tax and the price of carbon in the EU Emissions Trading System are insufficient.

It also recommends that the excise duty on diesel should be raised to that on petrol because doing so would bring environmental and health benefits.

However, the CCAC says assistance should be provided alongside any increases in taxes to address the negative impact of carbon tax on poorer households.

The report outlines how Ireland is in an even worse position regarding its climate targets than it was last year.

Emissions continue to rise by 2 million tonnes per year, instead of falling by the required 1m tonnes, the report says.

The largest increases occurred in energy industries, up 0.7m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, followed by transport and agriculture, both up 0.5m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

This means projections to 2035 are now completely off course, the council says, and as a result immediate and urgent action is needed.


 

The document claims that without such action Ireland is unlikely to deliver on national, EU and international obligations and will drift further from a pathway that is consistent with transition to a low-carbon economy and society.

According to the council, projections indicate strong growth in emissions nationally and across transport and the built environment in the coming decades, driven by strong economic growth and an associated increase in energy demand.

It says of great concern is the observed and projected increase in agricultural emissions, and ongoing carbon losses from land use, including from peat extraction, which it claims undermine our ability to achieve the national transition objective and our EU targets for 2020 and 2030.

The review also recommends that Ireland work with other European countries to introduce a regional carbon price floor in the electricity sector to support decarbonisation.

It says the Government's promise to cease burning coal at Moneypoint by 2025 is welcome but it is worried that planned support for biomass cofired with peat could end up supporting the ongoing use of peat in the generation of electricity, with the result of higher emissions.

Instead, it says, exchequer money would be better spent on other measures that would reduce emissions and assist with the transition away from a dependence on fossil fuels.

The report says the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan have the potential to significantly address climate change challenges, but only if the plan is robustly delivered on.

The report criticises the Government for not providing a pathway for the decarbonisation of the economy and society by 2050.

It says "scenario analysis" should be undertaken to provide a map for policymakers and an appropriate benchmark against which to measure the effectiveness of different policies.

"Without such a map, we cannot know how Ireland will transition to a low-carbon economy and society," the report says.

"It has never been more urgent or apparent that this gap in our understanding is addressed if Ireland is to meet the policy objectives for 2030 and 2050."

The full report will be available for download at www.climatecouncil.ie.

Minister Naughten says Ireland faces a 'monumental task'

Reacting to the Climate Change Advisory Council's report, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment said the country has a monumental task in front of it when it comes to decarbonising.

Denis Naughten said the reality is that the investment that should have taken place over the past decade, that would have had an impact, did not take place.

But he said the Government has already committed €22 billion over the next decade to help Ireland achieve its climate change targets by 2030 and beyond.

Minister Naughten also pointed to yesterday's approval by the Cabinet of the new renewable electricity support scheme, which will see a doubling of the volume of the renewable electricity going into the electricity grid.

Mr Naughten said that this will have a significant impact in taking dirty fossil fuels out of the energy system and replacing them with cleaner fuels.

In relation to the council's recommendation that the carbon tax should be increased, Mr Naughten said consideration of such issues is part of the budget process.

But he said there will be climate measures in the budget and that the issues of taxation and regulatory measures needed to be looked at.

Regarding the council's call for the removal of peat from electricity generation, Mr Naughten said, "The big issue with a lot of these climate reports and environmentalists is they take and leave the issue of community out of things and community has to be a part, and must be a focal point, of any measures that we take."

1,500 families are directly impacted by peat production in the Midlands he added, and new opportunities would have to be provided for those families, and the next generation, so there is a long-term sustainable transition out of fossil fuels.