The Cabinet has approved a revised Climate Action Bill which includes specific targets on reducing carbon emissions - a key objective of the Green Party going into Government.
The Minister for Climate and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said the legislation is about showing leadership on climate action while also offering employment opportunities.
Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Mr Ryan said today they can put out a message that Ireland is showing real leadership on climate action.
He said the Climate Bill "is going to change our country" and it will make for a better Ireland.
Minister for Climate and Environment Eamon Ryan said that the Climate action Bill is "going to change our country" and will make for a better Ireland | https://t.co/ZxhsJYs0ne pic.twitter.com/NjSi5CeqGl— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 23, 2021
The Bill contains a National Climate Objective which commits the country to "pursue and achieve, by no later than the end of the year 2050" carbon neutral status.
However, there is due to be a reduction of 51% in the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions within 10 years - a significant front-loading of the plan.
This was a key commitment of the coalition's Programme for Government.
As expected, it will set out the creation of five-year 'carbon budgets' to secure that target.
Crucially, however, it will state that the provision of the first two such budgets should equate to the 51% reduction of emissions on a baseline of 2018.
To bolster things further, it is believed that the legislation will require all carbon budgets to be consistent with the Paris Climate Agreement.
Mr Ryan said this Bill makes Ireland a green island, green in practice as well as in word.
Of the pledge to halve emissions in the next decade, Mr Ryan said: "No country has ever set such an ambitious target and going net zero in three decades, that's a challenge beyond compare, but it's one that we're going to be good at and one that we will show leadership in."
Speaking on RTÉ's Six One Mr Ryan said there must be wholesale change to meet the ambitious targets in the Bill.
He said this would mean changes to the economy, the transport, agriculture, and waste systems but these changes will be for the better.
The Minister said some of the measures will take up to 20 or 30 years to achieve but added there were areas where Ireland has real advantages such as renewable wind resources.
Minister Ryan said farmers are part of the solution and will be frontline in achieving this. He said they would not be required to make the same speed of reduction as in the transport or energy sectors but they will have to play their part.
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Speaking at a press conference following the publication of the Bill, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the bill means a path towards climate neutrality for Ireland.
"There is still time to avoid the worst outcomes of this crisis and doing what needs to be done," he said.
"The next decade is critical if we are to prevent the worst impact of climate change," says Taoiseach Micheál Martin. He says that the interim target of a reduction of 51% in emissions by 2030 demonstrates the Govt's commitment to climate action | https://t.co/ZxhsJYs0ne pic.twitter.com/2apTR2UauY— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 23, 2021
Mr Martin said the bill published today is a legally binding commitment for the next 30 years.
"This legislation lays the foundation for a safe and healthier Ireland," he said.
He also said it fully embraces this challenge of transitioning to low carbon emission and allowing for new opportunities in areas such as renewable energies and sustainable finance.
Mr Martin said a decade can be transformative in terms of innovative practices and technology and a legislative binding imperative will be a catalyst for greater innovative approaches.
"I think it is a fundamental change. I think this is a very substantive piece of legislation. It is a key pillar of the Programme for Government."
He said in that context it will be seen in time as a very significant change in direction for the country.
He said new skills will be required and there will be traineeship programmes with ambitious targets to increase apprenticeships over the next five years.
Mr Martin said the Government's view is that there are substantial job opportunities in the green economy.
He said retro-fit is one key area, off-shore wind is going to be quite significant and that they have significant targets for renewable electricity to be met by offshore wind.
He said certain economic activities will be replaced with new economic activities in both the private and public sector.
Mr Ryan said 30,000 jobs will be created to retrofit and improve homes and make them more efficient to run and improve health.
He said Ireland will have a lot of clean electricity in the coming years so it will be about the big industry plants "looking to see can they switch to hydrogen instead of methane natural gas".
He said they know the Government is fully behind it.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said Ireland is currently a major importer of fossils fuels and the Government wants to turn that around in the coming decades.
He said their plan will be to export renewable energy and also change agriculture so Ireland becomes renowned as a country for producing food in a way that is low carbon and sustainable.
Opposition parties voice scepticism about bill
Opposition parties have both welcomed and criticised elements in the government's new Climate Action Bill which was passed by Cabinet earlier today.
The Labour whip deputy Duncan Smith said that while he welcomed the recognition of a need for a Just Transition, he felt that the language and commitments for workers in the Bill must be strengthened and made more robust.
The Social Democrats deputy Jennifer Whitmore said that while she backed the inclusion of specific emission reduction targets in the Bill, she was concerned that references related to the 51% greenhouse gas reduction by the year 2030 could be watered down.
The Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan said that while she was happy that many of the recommendations made by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action had been taken onboard, she added that it was "deeply regrettable that the bill contains no mention of the ban on import terminals for fracked gas."
The People Before Profit's spokesperson on Climate, Bríd Smith, said the Climate Bill is "not fit for the purpose" of addressing the scale of the climate crisis. She said the Bill is "hardwired to fail" in achieving the necessary emissions reductions.
The leader of the Rural Independent Group, Mattie McGrath, said that rural Ireland wanted to support climate action but its people was being unfairly hit: "More restrictions on farmers. More carbon taxes on fuel. That affects rural people way more than people than it does people using the DART or the Luas."
Meanwhile the Friends of the Earth Director Oisín Coghlan said that the Climate Action Bill is "a big step in the right direction" but he added: "... today is just the beginning. TDs and Senators must now do their job to make sure the final law is as robust as possible."
Once legislation is finalised, budget details will be announced
Meanwhile, the Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council said that once the legislation on the revised Climate Action Bill is finalised by the Oireachtas, the budget details which set a limit on emissions from 2021-2025 will be announced.
Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Marie Donnelly said there will be an overall limit set for the whole of the economy and that these will then be broken down by sector, which are weighted according to their emissions.
She said for example, the transport sector emits about 15 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year. So, if that sector is to reach its target it means it has to reduce by 50% between now and 2030.
She said this will also apply to heat, electricity, building, power systems and agriculture.
She said all sectors will all have their roadmaps itemised against a timeline to deliver the emission reductions.
Ms Donnelly said Ireland's emission profile, is quite different to the other EU member states, because agriculture accounts for 33% of our emissions, much of which comes from methane, which comes from the animals.
She said the fact that methane is a different gas and has a different profile to carbon dioxide - this will be taken into account by the Council when setting the carbon budgets and putting the roadmap in place.
She said another important element in the Bill, is the target to reduce by 50%, the carbon emissions recorded in 2018 by the end of the decade.
She said "it's a big step, it's going to be a challenge to do it, but it will put us on the right path".