Ireland has "failed miserably" to make progress in reducing emissions by 2020

Climate change expert Professor John Sweeney says governments here have been unwilling to "grasp the nettle"

Ireland has "failed miserably" to make progress in reducing emissions by 2020

Professor John Sweeney. Photo: Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland

A leading climate change expert says Ireland has "failed miserably" to meet our emissions targets.

In 2009, EU member states agreed to binding annual targets until 2020 for cutting emissions in four key sectors: housing, agriculture, waste and transport (excluding aviation).

Ireland is currently expected to miss our 2020 goals by somewhere between 4% and 10%.

The State could face fines amounting to hundreds of millions of euro for failing to reach targets - while failure to reach 2020 targets will also make 2030 targets more challenging to achieve.

Officials from the Department of Communications, the Irish Farmers Association and climate experts will meet today to discuss Ireland's progress.

Ahead of today's Oireachtas committee hearing, Professor John Sweeney - climate change expert at Maynooth University - told Newstalk Breakfast that governments here have been unwilling to "grasp the nettle".

He explained that, since 1990, we have increased our emissions by around 10% - and in recent years have failed to secure necessary reductions in emissions in areas such as agriculture and transport.

He observed: "We had 10 years, really, to make progress in this area - and I'm afraid we've failed miserably to do so."

Professor Sweeney says that Irish leaders have prioritised other things over efforts to reduce emissions.

He suggested: "We've prioritised a large-scale expansion and intensification of agriculture; we've prioritised the extensions of settlements, often car-borne settlements.

"As a result, transport emissions and agricultural emissions have been rising very rapidly in recent years. Also, of course, we have failed to decouple economic growth from emissions growth."