It is an honour to have the opportunity to make a transition statement at this time, as we are almost at the first anniversary of the publication of Ireland's first ever whole-of-government climate action plan, which was published around 17 June last year. We have made significant progress in both the Oireachtas and the Government over that period. For example, the Oireachtas unanimously declared a climate and biodiversity emergency and the Government published the scheme of the Bill which will revolutionise the way we deal with climate. It will introduce, for the first time, five-year climate budgets and it will set a target for the 2050 net zero emissions that Ireland aspires to deliver. That will be very significant. It will also introduce entirely new accountability within the House. Instead of this transition statement, which has come into disrepute within the House, each Minister will be sectorally responsible and there will be a powerful Oireachtas committee with similar powers to the Committee of Public Accounts which will oversee our responsibilities in respect of climate. That will be a very significant change for the House.
We have also passed the commitment to a carbon price, which is the first increase of that carbon price and that money is hypothecated, as economists would say. All the proceeds are being used to drive on climate action, either in the form of just transition such as the significant packages for the midlands, or by supporting those who are worst equipped to fund such changes with schemes like the better energy, warmer homes scheme or the fuel scheme, and increasing our activities in all types of measures that deliver climate action.
Another very significant milestone is the signing of the contract for the national broadband plan, which we signed in January. People will see how significant broadband has been over the course of the Covid-19 crisis in providing an alternative to our conventional ways of travelling and working, which are highly carbon-dependent, by using remote working opportunities. Such opportunities have certainly revolutionised the way people are now working.
It will be a challenge to try to retain those structural changes, but we have shown the potential that exists if we go down the line of having every premises in the country connected to high-speed broadband. That can have a significant impact on the way we do business.
In that intervening period, Ireland also signed up to the EU Green Deal, which is an ambitious statement from the new President of the European Commission. Europe had a target of a 40% reduction on 1990 levels and has increased this to between 50% and 55%. The latter represents a significant step upwards and will require Ireland to take a significant step beyond what is contained in the climate action plan. Work on how that will be done is ongoing.
It is worth giving the House an account of some of the changes we have made in the Department. The first new renewable energy auction has been published and we will shortly be receiving applications. It has a 10% pot for solar energy, as well as an open competition in respect of other renewables. The House will be glad to learn that it also has a reservation for renewables generated by community organisations. There will be a community gain of €2 for every megawatt hour generated and that money will go into a fund to benefit communities. Agreement was not reached by the European Union on this occasion regarding a community participation element whereby a shareholding element could be obtained by a community. A design was developed but because there is a state aid element, approval has not yet been granted. It is something we will persist with for the next round.
At the end of June we will publish a waste and circular economy strategy which will seek to deliver on our ambitions, such as in the area of eliminating all non-recyclable plastics, halving food waste and so on. Many ambitious changes are planned. The retrofit task force and the €20 million midlands pilot initiative are well advanced, but unfortunately Covid-19 has put paid to hitting the ground with the midlands programme. The work on designing an aggregated scheme so that we could treat areas in very large packages and have work on very substantial numbers of homes done together to a high level is well advanced and will be essential to our longer-term ambitions.
The House knows we have signed an agreement on the interconnector with France. This will be a significant project. We have issued the new arrangements for renewable heat. We have started the roll-out of new electric vehicle chargers with the ESB and local authorities have started the roll-out relating to the commitment over the next couple of years to provide 1,200 local authority and 700 ESB chargers. The first major hub on the N7 is at an advanced stage of preparation and will shortly go live.
We have committed to the extension of the smoky coal ban and have significantly developed the just transition package. The closure of a power station in the midlands was accelerated due to the decision of An Bord Pleanála and we have put in place a just transition package, which is now live in the midlands, in terms of applications for funds. The restoration of bogs has commenced under the contract from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
The other encouraging thing is that the most recent data shows that 2019 saw the largest ever reduction in carbon generated from energy use. This is a significant milestone. The electricity sector is showing a very strong performance as we increasingly displace fossil fuels with energy from renewable sources.
Renewable energy comprises approximately 36% of what we generate and we need to accelerate that to reach the 70% target in the climate action plan.
Obviously, 2020 is important because it is the year in which calculations will occur to decide the shortfall. The shortfall was predicted to involve a fine of between €6 million and €13 million on the carbon emissions side. In light of the situation that obtains this year, it will certainly be less than that, although the more significant fines will probably apply to Ireland in respect of the renewable target where we will have a shortfall.
Work is continuing on the national climate and energy plan to be submitted to the EU. Both it and the long-term strategy require sign-off by a new Government. They are somewhat delayed. We have published the 12 sectoral adaptation plans, which involve each of the sectors and every part of Government. They go across four themes: our natural and cultural assets; water and flood; critical infrastructure; and health. Those are the four themes in respect of which we have 12 separate strategies to anticipate the adverse impact that may come with climate change and to fortify our infrastructure against them.
The four climate action regional offices are operational. These cover the local authorities of Mayo, Dublin Cork and Kildare. I have been very keen to have a very detailed and rolling programme of consultation with people both sectorally and regionally, with young people and with various interests. We have had more than a dozen of those consultations, as well as the big more formal events such as that held in Croke Park before we launched the climate action plan. It is really important to bring people with us on what is a very challenging journey.
This is the biggest challenge of our generation. It will require people to change the habits of a lifetime. It will require mobilising large amounts of capital to redirect the economy and society. It will require people accepting different infrastructure from what they are used to. It is really important that we in the Oireachtas provide leadership on that journey. I look forward to working with Deputies on all sides to ensure that the resolution passed in the previous Dáil to address the climate challenge becomes the lodestar of this Dáil as we seek to demonstrate to our people, as well as to the wider world, that we are taking this threat to our environment deadly seriously.