I welcome the opportunity to discuss the climate action plan. We should take these opportunities to the maximum whenever we can.
The recently published report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, as part of its sixth assessment, sets out the most up-to-date physical science basis for our understanding of climate change. The report confirms, among other things, that we have a limited window for real action to reduce emissions to ensure that current and future generations can live sustainably in a low-carbon and climate-resilient world.
In line with EU ambition, the programme for Government, Our Shared Future, commits to achieving a 51% reduction in Ireland's overall greenhouse gas, GHG, emissions from 2021 to 2030, and to achieving net-zero emissions not later than 2050. These legally-binding objectives are set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, the enactment of which was a key priority in the programme for Government. The climate Act underpins Ireland’s transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions and the achievement of a climate-neutral economy not later than 2050. It also establishes a legally binding framework with clear targets and commitments to ensure the necessary structures and processes are in place to deliver our national, EU and international climate goals and obligations in the near and long term.
Against this background, strategies must be devised to reduce and manage climate change risks through a combination of mitigation and adaptation responses. It is crucial that while we prepare our carbon budgets and sectoral emissions ceilings, delivery of climate action in Ireland continues at pace. The Climate Action Plan 2021, launched on 4 November, provides a detailed roadmap for meeting our climate ambition under the climate Act.
The plan sets out indicative ranges of emissions reductions for each sector of the economy. These ranges will be finalised in the climate action plan for 2022 following the legal adoption of carbon budgets and sectoral emissions ceilings.
The Government will support the changes through major public investment announced recently in the €165 billion national development plan, including increased funding for retrofitting our homes, building new public transport and active mobility infrastructure, reskilling workers and supporting a just transition.
While the Climate Action Plan 2021 builds on the ambitious targets of the 2019 plan, it represents a significant step-up in terms of ambition and implementation. To highlight a number of the most significant measures included in the Climate Action Plan 2021, the plan commits to an increase in the proportion of renewable electricity to up to 80% by 2030, including an increased target of up to 5 GW of offshore wind energy. It commits to a significant reduction in transport emissions by 2030. Measures will include enabling 500,000 extra walking, cycling and public transport journeys per day by 2030, and supporting the take-up of electric vehicles to reach almost 1 million by 2030. The plan commits to the implementation of a new national retrofit plan to increase supply capacity and make retrofitting more affordable. It also commits that our enterprise sector will see a faster uptake of carbon-neutral heating, increased electrification of high-temperature heating and the phasing out of high global warming potential F-gases.
The plan commits to reducing emissions associated with agriculture, which will be central to achieving our climate ambition. It provides a pathway to reduce emissions while supporting world-class food production, through an innovation and science-based approach. There will be a reduction in chemical nitrogen and more targeted use of fertiliser, while maintaining our position as a global leader in grass growth through multi-species swards. Reducing emissions from land use and a move to being an overall store of carbon will involve further bog rehabilitation, increased afforestation, and the rewetting of peat organic soils. A new forestry programme will be prepared for launch in 2023.
This plan also places a just transition at its core. It sets out four principles that will guide our policymaking and implementation over the coming years to ensure that we can effectively monitor and manage our transition and that our responses remain flexible so that we can respond to future transition challenges and target the areas in need of support. Each Minister, as well as the Government as a whole, will be expected to consider these principles as we develop and implement our climate policies.
We have committed in the plan to establishing a just transition commission, which will make periodic recommendations to Government, building on research, engagement through the National Dialogue on Climate Action and the annual review from the CCAC on how Government policy can further the just transition. In delivering this ambitious climate action plan, we must ensure we bring people with us and that the transition is fair. The recently launched National Dialogue on Climate Action will facilitate public engagement, participation, community action, networking and capacity building activities on climate action, giving everyone in society the opportunity to play their part. Earlier this month, €60 million in funding from the Climate Action Fund was announced for community climate action projects to support and empower communities to shape and build low carbon, sustainable communities in a coherent way. The Government will shortly publish an accompanying detailed annex of actions to support the delivery of this plan. This annex sets out the detailed actions with timelines to drive delivery and ensure our emissions reduce.
I now turn to agriculture, which is responsible for 35% of our greenhouse gas emissions, predominantly methane and nitrous oxide. Agriculture has long been a key pillar of Ireland’s economy, especially our rural economy, and it will and should remain so into the future. Irish agriculture has a strong reputation globally, built on our green image of clean air and clean water. It is the same reputation that underpins our tourism industry. We, as a country, need to maintain the green reputation through achieving the goals laid out in the climate action plan. At the same time, we need to reverse the water quality decline caused, in part, by agricultural run-off, and this should be addressed in the nitrates action plan. We also need to halt biodiversity loss and use the Common Agricultural Policy to ensure farmers are incentivised to provide and maintain habitats.
The 2021 climate action plan focuses on reducing emissions by between 22% and 30% by 2030 from 2018 levels. There are a number of key actions laid out in the climate action plan, which will be updated annually to take account of developments in science and policy. First, there will be a significant focus on the reduction in chemical nitrogen fertiliser on our farms. This reduction in fertiliser will be achieved through more targeted applications, reductions in run-off, use of nitrogen fixing plants in multi-species swards and use of low emissions slurry spreading technology, which has seen a significant uptake over the last three years. Recent increases in international gas prices are also feeding through to increases in fertiliser prices, which strengthens the imperative to reduce fertiliser consumption. Farmers need to be supported to do so without a loss in farm income.
Use of multi-species swards, in other words, a mixture of three or more species whose growth characteristics complement each other, resulting in improved productivity compared to when each species is grown on its own, will enhance productivity with significantly less nitrogen input. This reduces costs and allows the animals gain weight faster, reducing additional feed requirements. It is important that this productivity gain not only results in higher farm profit, but also in improved water quality and enhanced habitat that will improve biodiversity.
Ireland is at the bottom of the league table of organic farming in Europe. We need to reverse this and we need to promote organic farming. This will require sustained investment by the State and farmers in the transition to organic farming. The climate action plan targets an almost five-fold increase in organic farming in Ireland.
There are a number of other key actions laid out in the plan. We need to shift the focus fundamentally to increasing farm incomes through rewarding sustainable food production, enhancing biodiversity and protecting our air, climate and water.
Our homes, workplaces, public buildings and recreational facilities are responsible for 12.7% of our overall emissions, predominantly in the residential sector, not including emissions from the electricity we use in our buildings. The poor energy performance of our building stock means that our homes produce about 60% more CO2 emissions than the European average. There is already a vibrant retrofit industry in Ireland, with over 400,000 homes, or about one quarter of all homes, having received grants to upgrade their homes since the introduction of energy efficiency grants in 2008. However, the activity level to date is not sufficient for our ambition. We need to increase both the number of homes improving their energy performance and also increase the depth of retrofit that our homes must undergo. Most people will understand the need to improve the insulation of homes to improve air leakage and to ensure our homes have adequate and controlled ventilation.
We also need to focus on the switching of our solid fuel, oil and gas boilers to cleaner alternatives. There are two main alternatives that will be used and, in outlining those alternatives, it might be worth outlining some examples of other European countries that use them. In Scandinavia, as a response to the 1970s oil crisis, Norway, Sweden and Denmark set out to install district heating systems that used waste heat from power plants and other industrial facilities to provide heat to homes. This works by installing highly insulated piping to every home in a city and metering the heat, much like electricity, and charging users for the heat on a monthly basis. Approximately 50% of Danish heat is supplied in this way. The target in our climate action plan is to have district heating, from plants like the waste-to-energy facility in Poolbeg, to provide between 5% and 10% of our heat by 2030.
For homes in areas of lower density, rural and suburban homes will switch from fossil fuel to heat pumps, predominantly air-source heat pumps. Almost all new-build homes last year installed heat pumps as their heating systems. In Norway, 60% of homes are heated by heat pumps and about 43% in Sweden. In Ireland, we will use our vast wind energy to provide zero-carbon electricity for heat pumps in our buildings. A well installed heat pump can provide four units of energy, drawn from the energy in the air, to each one unit of electricity required to power the heat pump. The climate action plan seeks to install 600,000 heat pumps in Irish homes by 2030, with 400,000 in existing homes.
The national retrofit plan, published as part of the climate action plan, will support homeowners to retrofit their homes. We will be qualifying a number of one-stop-shops for retrofit that can support homeowners on this journey and organise the contractor, grants, advice and low-cost finance. The vision underpinning the national retrofit plan is that it should be as easy to retrofit a house as it currently is to buy a car, with a small up-front deposit and a low-cost loan that will predominantly be funded by the savings on energy bills. The Government has, in the national development plan and the climate action plan, outlined the very significant Exchequer resources available to retrofit homes out to 2030, funded in part by carbon taxation. The provision of zero-carbon, low-cost heat to our homes is one of the most important climate interventions the Government is making, delivering a range of benefits, including improved public health and air quality.