The Climate Change Advisory Council has finalised two five-year carbon budgets which seek to reduce Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions by 51% within a decade.

Under the plan, substantially more emissions reduction will take place in the second part of the decade that the first.

Each budget establishes a national ceiling for the total amount of emissions that can be released.

The first carbon budget, running from 2021 - 2025, will see emissions reduce by 4.8% on average each year for five years.

The second carbon budget, running from from 2026 - 2030, will see emissions reduce by 8.3% on average each year for five years.

The next step will be for Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan to bring the carbon budget to Cabinet and then the Oireachtas for approval.

Subsequently, Minister Ryan will seek Cabinet approval to impose carbon ceilings on individual sectors such as energy, transport and agriculture.

The CCAC is an independent body charged with finalising Ireland's carbon budgets.

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The target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50% by the end of the decade is onerous.

The scale of the task was underlined by a report from the Environmental Protection Agency last week, which found that Ireland only reduced emissions by 3.6% last year - despite the Covid-19 pandemic closing much of the economy.

It also confirmed that Ireland had failed to abide by its European Union commitment to reduce emissions by 20% by the year 2020 - the actual amount of reduction was only 7%.

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Responding to today's agreement, Minister Ryan said: "The first two 5-year carbon budgets equate to a total reduction of 51% emissions over the period to 2030. This is part of the journey towards 'net zero’, which commits us to the transition to a ‘climate resilient, biodiversity rich, environmentally sustainable and climate neutral economy’ no later than 2050.

"The Government will shortly publish Climate Action Plan 2021. Every sector of the economy will need to play its part. There will be different targets for each sector, based on their respective starting points and the relative difficulty, cost, speed and benefits of reducing emissions.

"This will be challenging and will require fundamental changes in many parts of Irish life, but it is also an opportunity to create a cleaner, greener economy and society that cuts emissions, creates jobs and protects our people and the planet."

'Serious repercussions for farming'

Irish Farmers' Association president Tim Cullinan said the emissions ceiling for agriculture announced today will have serious repercussions for farming.

"Our most productive farmers simply cannot remain viable with the level of restrictions that are proposed and this will have profound implications for the rural economy," he said.

"Some may compare the targets to other sectors and think agriculture has got a fair deal, but the Government has not considered the implications for individual farmers and the sector," he said.

"For most people, climate action will impact on their lifestyle. For farmers, it will impact on our livelihoods," he said.

He said the Government needed to engage in meaningful negotiations with farmers to "make a plan for the sector that can contribute to emissions reduction, but which does not impact on farmer’s livelihoods".

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Friends of the Earth Director, Oisín Coghlan, said: "The publication of the proposed Carbon Budgets signal the start of the most rapid and radical change in the Irish economy and society in our lifetimes.

"The figures in Carbon Budget One and Carbon Budget Two are broadly in line with the scenario Friends of the Earth identified as "Catch Up". It will not be a perfectly smooth reduction pathway from 2018 to 51% carbon savings by 2030. The average year-on-year savings in the first five-year Budget to 2025 is just under 5%, while the average year-on-year savings in the second five year Budget will be 8.3%.

"This represents a just about acceptable degree of "backloading" as it has been called. This is not the same thing as delaying action, it’s simply a reflection of the fact that new policies take time to have an impact. But to live with these budgets and hit our legally binding 2030 target, every Government decision from now on must be weighted towards cutting pollution, likewise every business decision, and the public need support to make less polluting options accessible and affordable for all."