Expert council warns Ireland 'completely off course' in climate change response

It is calling for an increase in the carbon tax from 2019

Expert council warns Ireland 'completely off course' in climate change response

File photo of a car being filled up with diesel | Image: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images

An expert advisory council has said Ireland is 'completely off course' in its response to climate change.

In its annual report, the Climate Change Advisory Council found that Ireland's climate response is fundamentally off course with polluting emissions continuing to rise across all sectors.

It says at the current rate, Ireland will not meet its 2020 and 2030 EU obligations.

It also says the country is failing to take necessary steps to achieve a de-carbonised economy by 2050.

The council also highlighted that Ireland is still over-reliant on fossil fuels and that, even with investment commitments in the latest National Development Plan, major new initiatives are necessary.

However it says: "It is unclear to what extent the policies and measures in the National Development Plan will impact on greenhouse gas emissions, as they have not yet been incorporated in to the national emissions projections."

The council welcomes a commitment to end the burning of coal at Moneypoint by 2025.

However, it is concerned that planned support for biomass co-fired with peat has the effect of supporting "the continued burning of peat for electricity generation", thus contributing to higher emissions.

Carbon tax increases

It says there is an urgent need to bring coherence to this aspect of energy policy and climate change policy by closing peat-fired generation as soon as possible.

It is also recommending that the carbon tax be raised to €30 per tonne in Budget 2019 "as an essential component of achieving decarbonisation".

It also says this should rise again to €80 per tonne by 2030.

The increase in tax from €20 to €30 per tonne would add approximately €1.20 to the existing price of a 40-kg bag of coal - or €0.26 to a bale of briquettes in 2019.

The council also recommends the development of a strategy that focuses on energy efficiency and moving towards renewables and that avoids "perverse incentives" that increase emissions of greenhouse gases.

'Disappointing but not surprising'

Kate Ruddock, spokesperson for the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, says: "Today's report again shows Ireland is way off track in our response to climate change.

"It is disappointing but not surprising.

"The continued support for peat burning, renewed vigour for offshore oil and gas exploration, and long delays in support for solar power and community participation in renewable energy generation point to an alarming policy incoherence and a knowing indecision on the part of Government."

Cliona Sharkey, policy adviser at Trócaire, adds: "The cross-party support that saw the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill passed by the Dáil in recent weeks was a critical show of what can be done when the political will is there.

"In the debate TDs pointed to a 'seismic shift' in understanding of the extent and urgency of the challenge.

"At today's level of warming climate change is already devastating the lives of people in the poorest parts of the world, and changes in Ireland are there for all to see.

"The ultimate and overwhelming public interest is ambition and action in line with the Paris Agreement.

"This must be the marker against which the urgently needed new policy measures in Ireland are judged."