I will share time with my colleagues the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, and Deputy Leddin, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Climate Action. I will not distribute a speech as I am using notes.
The need for statements today was inspired by the need for us to consider where we are in our plans for climate action and to reflect on recent developments, including the Taoiseach's speech to the UN Security Council. I also want to reflect the broader context in which we operate. Since the Oireachtas passed the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021, there have been significant developments. The sixth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, published in August, on the science and threat posed by climate change could not have been clearer. It was stark and dramatic in its use of the word unequivocal about the science and the threat that climate change presents to humanity and the urgent need for change. On our current trajectory, we face a 3° C increase in temperatures this century. While there have been significant developments in promises of action, even if they were delivered, they would not bring us to the Paris Climate commitments and, therefore, we need to go further.
In a speech in Milan earlier this week, the campaigner Greta Thunberg said we need to move on from words to actions. All of us in the political system have to be acutely aware that it is time for action, not just words. I am conscious of that as I am delivering a speech on our Parliament but I hope that it will be a speech about what actions we will take.
First, I will reflect on what the Taoiseach said at the Security Council. It was an historic moment for our country to chair the Security Council. It was appropriate for us to use the opportunity of that platform to recognise the reality that this is the greatest threat to our security and our future and it was correct that he called on other leading nations to put it in that context of what we need to do. There are other significant developments. We are approaching the 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, COP, of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Glasgow in November.
It is critical that this shows real progress and delivers real action. We need to reflect that there have been some positive developments in recent weeks. The announcement of the decision by the US Government at the UN General Assembly that it would be doubling its contribution to the €100 billion fund we need to raise to assist developing countries in this climate change challenge. This will help. We as a country have a good record in the climate finance we provide within our official development assistance programme. It is well targeted and is very well delivered, but we need also to increase and improve our ambition there. We look forward to the views of other parties on what we should do in that regard as we go into the budget period.
It is also very significant that last week the Chinese Government said it would no longer be funding the building of coal-fired power stations outside of China. This was an important step towards actions that will deliver us on the path.
Central to the whole economic strategy of the European Union now is the European Green Deal, and over summer, again, we reflected on the Fit for 55 legislation, which is probably the most broad and connected legislative package the European Union has ever presented. It is a dramatic signal of intent towards action. Next week at the environment ministers Council, the European Union will present our approach to the COP 26 negotiations, and we look forward to Ireland playing its part as part of the European Union team trying to get diplomatic agreement in Glasgow and in future COPs towards the sort of action we need.
We must note and recognise further developments in recent weeks, such as the significant agreement between the European Union and the United States of America on a global ambition of a 30% reduction in methane, both fossil and biogenic methane, as a global target on which we seek to get agreement.
Ireland will play a role as best we can within the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which was a body set up specifically to look at how we address these short-lived greenhouse gases. They are exceptionally virulent and scientists are increasingly saying we must play our part in reducing those gases, which is very significant and important. We must recognise further what is happening in this space. Our President addressed the UN, along with Tom Arnold, who has done very good work in this food systems approach. The President was speaking at the food system summit in the UN General Assembly where this issue was discussed, including how we integrate climate action with the protection of biodiversity, tackle the pollution crises we face, including water pollution, nitrate pollution, and ammonia and other pollution, and how it has to be a systems approach in all our systems, and a social approach as well as the scientific one in terms of how we address change. All of those developments are positive but just set the scene for what we need to do here at home.
First and foremost, what we now need to do at home is put into action the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, which we passed back in July. This sets us on a legally binding path to net zero emissions by 2050. I will now give some details that might help the Opposition on this, and hear its Members' perspectives on what we now need to do under that Act. Under the Act we must ensure we meet our international and EU targets and become much more transparent and clear on what we need to do and what policies we need. We will be held accountable in the implementation of those policies under the Act.
The next stage of the process will be the preparation of regulations on carbon accounting in consultation with the Climate Change Advisory Council, and they have to be consistent with the Paris Agreement and with EU rules, which I will talk about later. The publication of these regulations will be followed by the production of carbon budgets by the Climate Change Advisory Council. The carbon budgets will be presented to the Oireachtas and approved by Government. The Government will then set sectoral emissions ceilings determining how each sector of the economy will contribute to the achievement of the budgets. All sectors of the economy will need to have the highest possible ambition to deliver this challenge, but the highest ambition will be higher in some sectors than in others. Electricity, for example, has halved its CO2 intensity since 2005 and has dropped a further one third in the past five years. I expect that by 2030, compared with 2018, we will see a cut in the order of 80% in emissions in this sector.
The climate action plan will require every Department and body to ensure we deliver on the obligations, including making sure we meet the 2030 as well as the 2050 targets. Part of the process of preparing for the new climate action plan involves my Department working with nine working groups to deliver a comprehensive and well-researched set of measures setting out in this plan how we meet the overall target. Those working groups, supported by universities, consultants and a detailed public consultation process, have established two categories of measures. First, there are core measures that are well developed, under way or are so-called no regrets actions, which will be the foundation of the climate action plan. After that, further measures will be less certain and will require further policy development or are less clear in the amount of savings that would provide a pathway to the 51% reduction by 2030.
As I said, a public consultation process was held on the climate action plan, which was open for a period of eight weeks, and my Department received several thousand submissions. The submissions have been carefully considered and will form a valued input into the development of the plan.
In transport we will see much more provision for the development of walking, cycling and public transport journeys, and the national development plan to be announced next Monday will also signal a clear shift in terms of investment to support this. In towns and cities in particular we need to ensure, for health reasons as well as climate reasons, that our children can cycle, walk or take the bus safely to school. As an example and to give some hope and inspiration, because of the changes they have made locally in Dún Laoghaire some schools are now seeing 90% of children attending school by walking and cycling. The provision of safe infrastructure is the key enabler to make this happen. We cannot allow our children to be locked out of healthy transport options because of poor or unsafe roads and infrastructure.
In rural areas we will bring forward our Connecting Ireland policy to make public transport options available to everybody. We will also continue to switch to electric vehicles, which is particularly suitable in rural areas, and we will focus on the delivery of charging infrastructure to make sure everyone can avail of that cheaper and cleaner option.
In energy, we will quadruple our renewable capacity this decade, focusing in particular on the development of offshore wind. Flexible gas will continue to be part of the electricity solution for some time to come, building up and supporting that backup power for variable and renewable power. We will also build on battery storage and hydrogen to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. There will be a greater focus on demand-side flexibility in our electricity system. We are very clear that the security of supply challenge, which was discussed in the Dáil yesterday and which is a real issue we must address in the next four to five years, will not distract us from also meeting our climate change challenge at the same time.
We are very mindful of the whole issue of energy security and the energy crisis, when we must focus on making this a just transition. The current security of electricity supply situation, together with the internationally high prices in natural gas, are a matter of real concern to the Government. We will continue to help vulnerable customers and we will provide extensive supports to protect against higher household energy costs via energy efficiency and welfare schemes. We expect to make further progress in that regard in the budget next week and to continue the good work that is being done through the just transition commissioner, especially in the midlands. This week, for example, we heard that Bord na Móna is going to make further huge investments to create jobs to give us energy security and reduce emissions at the same time. This gives us an example that we can manage this complex task of providing the critical everyday energy needs of our communities, creating employment and protecting people from the high energy prices that are currently coming from high fossil fuel and insecure fossil fuel sources.
As we discussed yesterday, in regard to energy security, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, is outlining in detail how it intends to respond to the capacity issues, and part of that work will ensure measures fit within the revised climate action plan.
In heating, our new homes have already transitioned to high-energy efficiency heat pumps. We need to do the same in our new public and commercial buildings. We will continue to scale up the home energy upgrades, transitioning our homes from high-carbon cold homes to low-carbon warm homes. We will ensure one third of our homes reach the standard this decade. We have already almost doubled the investment in home energy upgrades this year and will further increase this year on year to the end of the decade as the industry expands to deliver this strategic goal.
Today, we are announcing €57 million worth of grants for community energy projects to be delivered through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI. I had the great privilege yesterday to visit a community in Clondalkin where householders from a local street came together and, working with their community housing association, they upgraded 40 houses from an F rating to an A rating by putting in new windows, putting insulation within the walls and installing heat pumps at the rear of the houses. There are incredible benefits in terms of warmer, cheaper, better homes in local communities, led by the local community and supported by the SEAI. That €57 million in grants announced today will deliver real change to protect people and help them to make the transition in a way that turns words into actions.
Critically, I will take this opportunity to set out some of the details around the regulations that will be needed as part of the carbon budgets. There are two regulations required in climate law . One is on greenhouse gas accounting methods, which will come to Government shortly, and the other, which has been finalised, is on land use emissions and sinks and how the accounting of these are dealt with.
At the same time, the European Union has proposed accounting emissions from 2020 to 2025 on a reference level. From 2026 to 2030, it recommends it on a gross-net basis, and from 2031, it recommends we incorporate all agricultural land use into one category. We are working through these matters with the Climate Change Advisory Council, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and Teagasc to provide advice to Government on how best to account for these emissions in a changing international landscape, which our regulations must reflect.
To my mind, one of the most important commitments in the programme for Government is our commitment to a land use review. Ireland's land is a limited precious resource that is fundamental to our economy, environment and well-being. It is vital when we consider our land that we strategically plan how to ensure the social, environmental and economic well-being of our country. We need to ensure livelihoods are maintained but also to restore the damage that has been done to the natural world in the past century and in the past five decades in particular.
The EPA has given stark warnings that our water quality is falling sharply, driven primarily by two things: a lack of good wastewater treatment capacity and agricultural run-off. While the wastewater issue is steadily improving, the agricultural contribution continues to decline in terms of water quality. To quote one of the country's pre-eminent scientists, Ms Laura Burke of the EPA, "all trends are going in the wrong direction". For water quality reasons, we will need to cut drastically the use of nitrogen on our agricultural land. This can be done in a way that is positive for farmers. Several of the research farms, including Lyons Farm, which is stationed at UCD, are showing that drastic cuts in nitrogen can be achieved when we move to a new multi-species sward grass pasture system. This shift away from nitrogen-hungry ryegrass cuts costs, increases soil carbon, improves water quality, reduces greenhouse emissions and protects us against the flooding and drought conditions we can expect as climate change hits home.
Ammonia is also rising. We will not reach our air quality targets without drastic action on ammonia, which mixes with other gases in the atmosphere to create particulates that enter our bloodstream and contribute to asthma, strokes and heart attacks. Both the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage are working on these issues, including a nitrates action plan. Together with ammonia reductions, this will, in my mind, require a fundamental change for the better in our agricultural system to one that works with nature.
When we improve productivity on farms from multi-species swards, lower methane levels, breeding and shorter animal life cycles, we must reinvest this productivity in nature and pay farmers better through the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, and other new payment systems to which we will need to turn to pay for this restoration of nature and reward the farmers and foresters who will deliver it. If we reinvest this dividend in growth, all our targets will be shot and our green reputation, which is already under pressure, will be damaged. We need to be truly Origin Green now in everything we do.
We need to be clear about what is happening on the issue of land and sequestration. We often see land use as a sink or as a store for carbon. However, in truth, in 2018, land was a source of emissions, which we have to address. Some 4.8 million tonnes is the estimate for 2018. Far from that improving, because of the changing nature of our forest cover system, we expect that by the end of this decade, we will have a bigger challenge in turning that land use from being a source into a sink. We can expect 7 million to 9 million tonnes of resources from land use due to the changes that are taking place in forestry, such deforestation and the lack of new forestry being planted. That, therefore, requires us to take drastic action on forestry if we are to meet our climate targets.
That can take various forms. It will be very interesting working with the Opposition because this is a long-term, multi-decade project. It a three-decade project. A lot of the emissions we will save from forest sinks will only accrue in the next decade or in the next lifetime of that forest. We need to start planting now and manage the accounting and organisation of this in a real way, however. We have done great work on forestry. We have gone from a country of 1% afforestation up to 11%.
The next leap will be through a different form of forestry, however, coming down off those peaty upland marginal lands, where we need to store carbon in those peaty soils rather than through continued afforestation. It will mean using all sorts of agroforestry, riparian forestry, closed continuous cover and close to nature forestry models. It will mean paying people and creating much greater employment in this new forest system, which in my mind will be central to meeting our 2030 target and beyond.
The challenge and the scale of increase in forestry is beyond compare but we can do it. In the mid-1990s, we were achieving some of the sorts of afforestation levels we will now need. That is what we need to go back to; it is not impossible. I want to signal the scale of change that is going to have to come from that area in advance of us devising these plans.
I am very conscious of time. I have run out of time without having completed all my notes. I want to share time with my colleagues and listen to the Opposition, however. I very much appreciate this chance to share some of the protocols and procedures we are going through in advance of the delivery of the carbon budgets later next month and the delivery of the climate action plan at the end of next month, which are the timelines we expect following the national development plan, NDP, and the budget in the next weeks. I will hand over to my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth.