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Joint Committee on Climate Action debate -
Wednesday, 11 Nov 2020

Scrutiny of EU Legislative Proposals

I welcome, from the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, Mr. Brian Carroll, assistant secretary, and Ms Aoife Parker-Hedderman, assistant principal. Our witnesses are appearing remotely from inside the Leinster House complex. They will be invited to make brief opening statements and this will be followed by a questions-and-answer session.

Witnesses are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person or body outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. I also advise the witnesses who are giving evidence from locations outside the parliamentary precincts to note that the constitutional protections afforded to witnesses attending to give evidence before committees may not extend to them. No clear guidance can be given on whether, or the extent to which, the evidence to be given is covered by absolute privilege of a statutory nature. If the witnesses are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence regarding a particular matter, they must respect that direction. I also advise them that any submission or opening statement they make to the committee will be published on the committee's website after the meeting. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

I remind members and witnesses to turn off their mobile telephones or switch them to flight mode. Mobile phones interfere with the sound system and make it difficult for the parliamentary reporters to report the meeting. Television coverage and web streaming will also be adversely affected.

I invite Mr. Carroll to make his opening statement.

Mr. Brian Carroll

I thank the Chair and committee members for scheduling today’s meeting to discuss European climate law.

The EU Commission's communication on the European green deal, which was published on 11 December 2019, confirmed the Commission’s ambition to make the EU the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. On 12 December 2019, the European Council endorsed the objective of EU climate neutrality by 2050. In its resolution of 14 March 2019 on climate change, the European Parliament also endorsed the objective of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In its resolution of 14 March 2019 on climate change, European Parliament also endorsed the objective of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. I will now deal with the two communications being considered by the committee today.

COM (2020) 80, or the European climate law, seeks to write into law the goal set out in the European green deal - for Europe’s economy and society to become climate neutral by 2050 - by cutting emissions and increasing the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to reach net zero emissions. It also sets out the framework to achieve EU climate neutrality and aims to enhance efforts on adaptation to climate change.

The proposal for a European climate law regulation forms part of a broader package of ambitious actions announced in the Commission’s European green deal communication. The European green deal launches a new growth strategy for the EU that aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society improving the quality of life of current and future generations with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use. It also aims to protect, conserve and enhance the EU's natural capital and protect the health and well-being of citizens from climate and environment-related risks and impacts.

The key elements of COM (2020) 80 include setting a pathway to climate neutrality for the Union and providing certainty and confidence for businesses, workers, investors and consumers about the EU’s commitment; setting out conditions for a trajectory for the EU to achieve climate neutrality by 2050; providing for regular assessment of progress towards the climate neutrality objective and the level of ambition in the trajectory identified; providing for mechanisms in case of insufficient progress or inconsistencies with the climate neutrality objective - the EU Commission may make recommendations to member states; providing for more ambitious action on climate adaptation, including by strengthening efforts relating to climate proofing, resilience building and prevention and preparedness; providing that the EU Commission should review existing Union policies and legislation in view of their consistency with the climate neutrality objective as well as the trajectory identified to achieve that objective; and providing that the European Commission should assess and make proposals to increase the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target under any existing policy instruments that have a 2030 perspective so that the reduction target is consistent with the 2050 climate neutrality objective. It also provides that following presentation of an impact-assessed plan to increase the EU's greenhouse gas emission reduction target for 2030 to at least 50% and towards 55%, the Commission will amend this regulation accordingly and by June 2021, review and propose where to revise, where necessary, all relevant related policy instruments. It also provides for consequential amendments to Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action.

COM (2020) 563 amends COM (2020) 80, the main elements of which I have just outlined. The original proposal stated that the Commission would present by September 2020 an impact-assessed plan to increase the EU’s greenhouse gas emission reduction target for 2030 from at least 40% to at least 50% and towards 55% compared with 1990 levels. With a view to achieving climate neutrality in the Union by 2050, the amending proposal is that the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced and removals enhanced so that net greenhouse gas emissions, that is emissions after deduction of removals, are reduced economy-wide and domestically by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The impact assessment demonstrates that increasing the EU’s emission reduction target for 2030 to at least 55% is both feasible and beneficial. It shows that an increase of the target implies greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts by all sectors and enhancement of removals, which need to be enabled by various policies. I should add that a partial general agreement was reached in October at the Environment Council. I am very happy to expand on any of these or any other elements of the proposals being considered by the committee today and to take whatever questions the committee may have.

I thank Mr. Carroll for appearing before the committee. This initiative by the new Commission is a really exciting and important mission. Even though the EU makes up only 10% of global emissions, its potential to show leadership will be crucial. It is also a visionary purpose that can unite many European citizens, which is something we have needed.

I have a few specific questions, one of which concerns governance. I know that in the economic sphere, the Semester process has become quite obligatory on governments and can force change. Regarding the recommendations envisaged in a Semester process under this, will that force member states? Will there be sanctions elements to it? Has that become clear?

My second question concerns emissions trading systems. We have seen the attempt in the EU to get Europe-wide approaches in certain sectors. I see they are canvassing the widening of those sectors to embrace new ones such as agriculture. How will that affect national targets, which constitute the subject of what we are doing in our climate work?

An issue has arisen about the definition of climate neutrality and how different greenhouse gases are dealt with in that. Has the EU dealt with this issue, which has come up at the committee? There is a belief that science is changing, that we may need to modify our approach and that there are different international approaches. How has that evolved in European thinking?

What is the latest on the just transition fund, which the EU is establishing under this initiative? It will be an important part of not only the architecture but also helping people to make the change.

Mr. Brian Carroll

I might start with the definition of climate neutrality in terms of how the EU has chosen to define it. It recognises that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, talks about bringing CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050 and non-CO2 gases in the following years to net zero. The EU has shown leadership by choosing an approach at EU level that involves bringing all greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050, including non-CO2 gases. In terms of governance, sanctions and the Semester, what is envisaged is that if a member state is off course, the EU can make recommendations to the member state. If the member state decides not to act on the recommendations made to go back on course, it is then obliged to explain itself in due course. Regarding sanctions, the new regime must be fully designed between now and into the next one or two years. Legislative proposals will be on the table by 2021.

There are flexibilities. There are ways that that member states can purchase compliance. That is a cost and it is one that is funding mitigation elsewhere in the EU rather than in one's own country and that is where the productive investment is taking place. Those sort of flexibilities impose a cost on member states if they are not in a position to bring about compliance within their own jurisdiction.

On the emissions trading system, ETS, there are proposals on the table which we will need to analyse. In particular, there are proposals on the expansion of the ETS which talk about its role in transport and the built environment. The EU tables a number of propositions, one of which is that the ETS comes into one of those spaces but in parallel one still imposes targets on member states, so that one would still have both an ETS and an effort-type sharing regulation operating in those sectors.

Another proposal is to reduce the size of the non-ETS and have the ETS just operate itself with nothing else as to, potentially, transport and the built environment.

On agriculture, the EU has published its methane strategy but is also looking at bringing LULUCF and agriculture potentially into a single block so one would have the non-CO2 greenhouse gases in a block with LULUCF and the creation of sinks.

Finally, on the just transition, each member state must prepare a just transition territorial plan for approval by the European Commission to access the funding. It must be prepared in accordance with EU rules, with the involvement of urban and other public authorities, economic and social partners and relevant bodies representing civil society, environmental partners and so forth. Ireland is in a phase at the moment where we are about to start a technical assistance-funded exercise to scope out the territory for the just transition plan and to do the preparatory work for it so that we can maximise the drawdown of funding in the coming years.

I thank Mr. Carroll. Before I bring in Deputy O'Rourke can I have a show of hands of which members wish to contribute after Deputy O’Rourke's contribution? Proceed please, Deputy O' Rourke.

I thank our witnesses for the update and presentation. Can Mr. Carroll outline the process from here of the implications of the EU COMs or proposals now before the committee on our obligations if we know what these are, or how do we find out what these are, or if they are changing at all? I noticed that there is reference to the target now shifting to at least 55% by 2030 which is to be Europe-wide. I presume there will be different obligations on different countries and there is also reference to a starting point. There is some indication that Ireland, being somewhat of a climate laggard, might have to do a little bit less of the lifting. Can Mr. Carroll indicate the process and the implications, if we know what they are, as to our obligations and also inform us as to the preparation of the climate Bill and other related legislation as it exists that might be changed on the back of these COMs?

Mr. Carroll can go ahead now, please.

Mr. Brian Carroll

I thank the Deputy. As to the process now, the ambition of the two proposals being considered by the committee today is that a general approach will be agreed in December and that a new EU-wide target will be submitted then by the EU as its nationally determined contribution, NDC, to the Paris Agreement. After that a trilogue is likely to commence in the new year on the proposals coming from the European Parliament to amend the regulations and the EU has promised to bring forward by June of next year a whole series of legislative proposals to give effect to the European climate law, to include the revised 2030 target.

As to how this will impact in Ireland, our existing legally-binding obligation is in the non-ETS sector, which is a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Separately, and this was a piece I had intended to mention in response to Deputy Bruton’s question, in the programme for Government we have committed to an average of 7% per annum reduction in greenhouse gases over the coming decade based on a 2018 baseline. When one compares that level of ambition against the new EU target, the level of ambition in the programme for Government is coming out somewhere between 55% and 60%. As to how this will translate for a new legal obligation for Ireland-----

My apologies but Mr. Carroll mentioned that the target is between 55% and 60%. Is it not 51%?

Mr. Brian Carroll

My recent analysis has suggested that it is between approximately 55% to 60%. I can provide confirmation on that later to the Deputy.

I thank Mr. Carroll.

Mr. Brian Carroll

Dealing with the question then as to how that translates into targets for Ireland going forward, we intend nationally to bring the next iteration of the climate action plan to completion by June of next year. That is to reflect the ambition shown in the programme for Government. It needs to be acknowledged that the programme for Government very specifically recognises that all of the technologies and emerging science in how we realise the ambition in this programme is not yet clear. The climate action plan will be updated on an annual basis, and as new policies and measures to fully specify as to how we will hit the ambition in the programme for Government become clear, they will be incorporated into future iterations of the climate action plan.

Separately, the climate action plan will have to take account of whatever our EU legal obligations are and will have to have sufficient policies and measures within it to ensure that we are hitting our EU binding target in a timely fashion. There is a lot of uncertainty as to what that binding target will be, particularly around the proposals on the table to alter the architecture. In responding to Deputy Bruton I outlined some of those. If we were to assume that the architecture was to remain as it currently is, the next step for the EU is to engage in analysis of member states’ capacity to deliver. They will be very much focused on delivering the target at EU level and coming to some type of effort sharing decision in due course based on factors such as technical feasibility, cost effectiveness and fairness on an EU-wide basis, and will distribute the effort taking account of factors such as those.

I thank Mr. Carroll and I call Senator Higgins to speak now.

I thank Mr. Carroll. I want to focus on a couple of areas around that question of targets. As I understand, because Ireland is a laggard and has not met its previous targets, I do not believe that will give us a free pass. It might mean that we need to have a higher nationally determined contribution. Is Mr. Carroll suggesting that this would require us to be reducing by 55% to 60% from 1990 levels in order to be achieving the 55% that the EU is discussing?

It would be useful to clarify that.

I will come back to the question of the level of ambition. As we know, this direction from the Commission has gone through two of its stages. It has been through the European Parliament and it is on its way to the European Council. Mr. Carroll might confirm if that will happen in December. First of all, has Mr. Carroll a sense of what position Ireland intends to take on some of the key changes that were made in the European Parliament? For example, while there were proposals that the level of ambition should be raised to 65%, I believe a compromise proposal was agreed by the European Parliament of 60% by 2030. Similarly, there was a requirement that all future legislative and budgetary proposals had to be consistent with the Union's climate objectives. There was an amendment passed for the creation of an independent European scientific advisory body on climate change, and similarly, indeed, a greenhouse gas budget in 2021. It would be useful if Mr. Carroll could give an indication of what position Ireland will take in relation to these amendments to the Commission's proposals from the European Parliament when it goes to the third part of the process in the Council. That would be important.

It would be helpful if Mr. Carroll could confirm that he believes we are on track for these measures to be in place in 2021. There was some mention in the communication that it might be delayed because of Covid-19 but I understand it has gone through the European Parliament. It only has to go through the Council. If anything, the Covid-19 crisis has underscored the need for action on the science. Otherwise, it could lead to targets being raised further. Could Mr. Carroll also comment on the debate on it being net zero versus gross zero, and provide his perspective on it? We have heard the argument in relation to net zero. Also, in terms of other reductions, he might comment on whether they should be net or gross.

Mr. Brian Carroll

I thank Senator Higgins for the questions. In terms of what Ireland needs to do to hit its targets, the starting point - the previous contributor raised this issue as well - is based on average emissions from 2016 to 2018. Ireland's starting point will be on its average emissions over that period.

Ireland is behind in terms of our 2020 target. Against a 20% reduction, according to latest forecasts, we are likely to reduce by between 2% and 4% by 2020. However, if the 2019 climate action plan were fully implemented, in terms of our existing climate target which will be revised upwards and is a 30% reduction, it would have us reach and slightly exceed that target.

In terms of what Ireland needs to do, currently the intention is not to have every member state reduce its emissions by at least 55% by 2030 - it is to have the EU as a whole reduce its emissions. The architecture for how that will be achieved is not designed. I will not go back through it, but there are proposals on the table regarding the expansion of the emissions trading system, ETS; and regarding putting non-CO2 emissions, particularly agricultural emissions, into a particular pot with land use, land use change and forestry. It is not yet clear how they will interact with what we currently regard as non-ETS, where we have an effort-sharing regulation and where the legally binding obligation falls on the State. It would not be our expectation that Ireland would be expected to reduce, in its non-ETS as currently constituted, by 55% by 2030. That will be divvied up among member states to try and achieve the fairest and most cost-effective reduction of at least 55% for the EU as a whole.

In terms of the ambition in the programme for Government-----

I am not asking about the programme for Government. I am asking about the European Council meeting. I am conscious that we are mixing oranges and apples a bit. Irrespective of what is in the programme for Government about 7% and how that is calculated, what we are really discussing here is the EU framework which is based on reductions against 1990 levels. Could Mr. Carroll specifically answer the question in respect of the position that Ireland will be taking at the European Council meeting?

Mr. Brian Carroll

Ireland has fully supported the target reduction of at least 55% in greenhouse gas emissions at EU level and continues to support that level of reduction. The reason I mentioned the programme for Government was to illustrate that what we have committed to in the programme for Government is very ambitious - that is explicitly recognised in the programme for Government - but also to recognise that we have not yet specified how all of that will be achieved. That will emerge over the coming decades. Much of the domestic focus now - the Senator highlighted correctly that we are way off target - is on trying to close the implementation gap and get back on a trajectory. If we are to-----

With great respect, I was asking specifically about the position Ireland will take at the EU Council on the amendments made by the European Parliament. We will have ample opportunity to engage again on the domestic issue. I asked about the EU targets.

Mr. Brian Carroll

Our negotiating position to date has been to support the ambition proposed by the Commission. We will have to look at the proposals brought forward by the European Parliament and come to a position ahead of the Council meeting on what view we will take. That view is not yet settled.

I thank Mr. Carroll. I call Deputy Smith.

I am sorry. I have just arrived. I was at a discussion on aviation, which is not unrelated to this issue. I apologise if Mr. Carroll has already answered these questions.

Could Mr. Carroll elaborate on what he means by "climate neutral"? It appears more progressive on one level than "carbon neutral". It seems to encompass all greenhouse gases but it relies heavily on offsets, market mechanisms and, worryingly, looking to future technical solutions as opposed to accepting the urgent task to reduce the level of emissions. We do not want to have to use clever accountancy tricks. As Professor Kevin Anderson said recently, we can fool ourselves about emissions but we cannot fool physics and we cannot fool nature. They will find their way into the atmosphere. My concern with this EU green deal is similar to my concern about the climate Bill that is going through the Dáil - there is much obfuscation and it will not save the planet. I have a specific question for Mr. Carroll. Can he explain what he means by "climate neutral"?

Can Mr. Carroll tell me if he has read the recent article in Nature magazine which raises alarming issues? Essentially, it points out that the deal is based largely on the EU offshoring its emissions by trade. We move away from damaging practice in terms of climate and greenhouse gases but then enter massive trade deals with countries which block such initiatives. We get them to grow the things we need to offset our climate-damaging and unsustainable ways. The article states:

Importing millions of tonnes of crops and meat each year undercuts farming standards in the European Union and destroys tropical forests.


the EU depends heavily on agricultural imports; only China imports more. Last year, the region bought in one-fifth of the crops and three-fifths of meat and dairy products consumed within its borders ... This enables Europeans to farm less intensively ... [but] the imports come from countries with environmental laws that are less strict than those in Europe.


In the past 18 months, the EU has signed deals (some pending ratification) covering nearly half of its crop imports — with the United States, Indonesia, Malaysia and ... the South American trade bloc comprising Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. ... [These are not sustainable.] Many use pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified (GM) organisms that are strictly limited or forbidden in the EU.

Could Mr. Carroll comment on both of those matters for me?

Mr. Brian Carroll

On climate neutral, the UNFCCC has said we need to get CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050 and that emissions of non-CO2 gases need to be brought to net zero in the years following 2050. What is meant by "neutral" is that where there are continuing emissions of a greenhouse gas, they are offset by the creation of sinks or other technologies that balance them out. The EU, in terms of climate leadership, is going a bit beyond the UNFCCC and saying that not just CO2 but all greenhouse gases need to be brought to net zero by 2050. That is the position with regard to the EU 2050 target.

The Deputy raised the issue of our climate Bill. It is seeking to have a similar objective to that at EU level.

On the article in the Nature magazine, I am afraid I have not read it and am not familiar with some of its arguments or the evidence in it to support them, but I would be interested in reading it.

On carbon leakage, the EU is certainly very cognisant of it. It terms of its proposals, it is seeking to prevent carbon leakage. On the design of the new architecture, that will certainly be one of the features to be protected against to ensure we are not solving one problem and creating another by offshoring greenhouse gases.

Will Mr. Carroll clarify something for me? The basic contention of the article is that although we in the European Union are moving away from damaging practices, we are entering into massive trade deals with countries which continue to implement such practices. The idea is that we get food and produce imported into the European Union without damaging our CO2 or carbon emissions or our climate generally, but we are doing these massive deals with countries that ignore these rules and are actually relying on them to do so. Looking at the list of them, which I read out, they are, generally speaking, countries which will be impacted more by the manifestations of climate change, including floods, droughts, fires, etc., than the European Union will be. Does Mr. Carroll not think that is entirely hypocritical and runs counter to what we are trying to achieve by engaging in this whole process in the first instance?

Mr. Brian Carroll

It is difficult for me to comment on an article I have not read, but I think-----

I just want Mr. Carroll to comment on what I have just said.

Mr. Brian Carroll

In terms of parties to the Paris Agreement, the key thing is that, in the round, the parties comply with the obligations on them in terms of reducing their emissions and increasing their resilience and that the EU brings forward ambitious proposals that put it in a leadership role. As part of that the EU certainly is cognisant of protecting against the types of impacts that the Deputy is suggesting, and that is the right and correct thing for the EU to do. On the details the Deputy has raised, in principle it is right to prevent and work against carbon leakage and to ensure we are avoiding creating a problem somewhere else by reducing our own emissions, but I am just not familiar with the specifics of the article, so it is difficult for me to comment on them.

Would it be too much ask a busy man like Mr. Carroll to read the article and give us his comments in writing, if that is possible?

Mr. Brian Carroll

It would not.

Good. I thank Mr. Carroll.

As no one is indicating in this first round, I will move to the second round of questions.

I have a brief question. With the new move for Europe to adopt the nationally determined contributions, NDCs, where stand now the national energy and climate plans, NECPs? One of the outcomes of our own election and that process has been the need to reboot our preparation work for the NECP. Where will all that fall into the architecture as it changes?.

Mr. Brian Carroll

The impact assessment the Commission has recently published to demonstrate that the figure of at least 55% is both achievable and beneficial at an EU level was based on an assessment of all the NECPs that were submitted, including our own. It is the data informing future analysis about how the new ambition should be shared across member states. The next step is to publish new legislative proposals in June of next year. Again, they will be subject to discussion both at the European Council and the Environment Council in due course and a lot of bilateral engagement with member states. Ultimately, depending on the architecture that emerges, it would be envisaged that we would have a revised NECP, probably in 2023, that reflects what is decided in terms of Ireland's contribution to the new level of EU ambition.

I thank Deputy Bruton, because those questions around that architecture of governance and the Semester process in the NECP are really crucial.

On the cross-European areas, in terms of aviation and shipping, certainly whenever we try to address the issue of aviation we are told this is an EU competency. Within this new set of targets at the EU level, what will the monitoring or structures be around aviation and shipping and the reduction of emissions in those sectors?

I am also interested in the Semester process, but in terms of the shift that may be happening with agriculture, Mr. Carroll will be aware that there is quite a lot of concern at the moment that the initial proposals on the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, do not seem to be compatible with the achievement of these goals. There are also concerns about the energy charter and countries which are seeking to transition and will need to transition their energy supply very significantly. That may dovetail with the question on the NECP, but what obstacles might there be in that area?

Turning to the question of, as Mr. Carroll is calling it, carbon leakage, I am wondering if life cycle accounting is perhaps a better term because the phrase "carbon leakage" can be used in two ways as an argument in that we should not have high regulations here and so on. With non-territorial emissions or life cycle accounting, regardless of whether the responsibility for all of the carbon produced across the life cycle of any product is counted in any one country, there would at least be a transparency of accountability in terms of life cycle accounting. Is that something Mr. Carroll thinks might be useful or key in addressing the kinds of issues Deputy Smith raised?

Lastly, on the just transition, Mr. Carroll mentioned territorial planning and that there was some advance work - advance mapping - happening on that. I just wanted to clarify, is that sectoral mapping as well as geographical mapping? Is the Department mapping sectors that are going to need a just transition as well as, perhaps, geographical areas which will need it?

Mr. Brian Carroll

I might start with the just transition question. We have to produce a territorial plan. Clearly, a very important part of that is defining the geographical area to which the EU funds can be applied. The second thing is, as the Senator correctly pointed out, looking at the sectors that are going to be impacted over time by the transition and that will need the intervention.

There is a bit of work to be done in terms of agreeing with the EU an appropriate geographically specified area which the funds can be applied to while balancing that against ensuring that the sectors that are impacted are capable of availing of the funding.

In terms of the life cycle accounting approach, clearly, that type of approach gives greater clarity on where emissions are generated and, in terms of consumption, who benefits from the produce of the generation of those missions. Approaches like that increase transparency.

In terms of agriculture and the land use, land use change and forestry, LULUCF, approach, the proposal on the table by the Commission is very much around trying to integrate removals with non-CO2 emissions. Currently, it is only a proposal potentially to have that as a single block.

In terms of the energy charter, I was not fully clear on the Senator's question. Was it around particular challenges?

We know, for example, that different cases have been taken within Europe against countries that tried to transition away from fossil fuels. I am aware there has been some conversation around the tension between corporate interests and legitimate expectations, as they would call it, from certain industries and member states' efforts to decarbonise in the energy sector. It is one of those issues, like with aviation and shipping, and Mr. Carroll might comment on them, where an EU-wide response is required.

Mr. Brian Carroll

I might start with the emissions from maritime and aviation. The EU proposal in that area does recognise that action in the sectors is urgently needed, including as it recovers from the crisis. The EU has a legislative framework in place that covers all greenhouse gas emissions, except for maritime transport. The current regulation focuses solely on monitoring, reporting and verification of emissions.

In terms of aviation, the application of the EU emissions trading system, ETS, is currently suspended in respect of flights to countries outside the European Economic Area to allow for the development of corresponding international instruments. For both sectors, however, in accordance with an international commitment to economy-wide action in terms of the Paris Agreement, the EU will continue to regulate at least intra-EU aviation emissions in the EU ETS and include at least intra-EU maritime transport in the EU ETS. That is the proposal on the table.

In terms of the issues the Senator raises about legitimate expectation and the need to exit certain industries, I would not disagree that an EU-wide approach is needed, but what is very important in that area also is engagement with wider society, including business, consultation, creating as much regulatory certainty as possible and having the supports in place such as the just transition fund and those types of interventions to make the social and economic change for businesses and individuals easier to do over time.

I thank Mr. Carroll. Do any other members want to contribute in this round? I can go another round if members still have questions for Mr. Carroll.

I have a single one-liner.

One more quick question.

When Mr. Carroll spoke to us previously he expressed the concern that if we were to insert interim targets, our level of ambition could raise but it seems that the so-called at least formulation, which is being used in the EU Commission proposal in terms of at least 55% or at least 60% if we go with the European Parliament version, allows that to be a minimum interim target. Does he agree that that does allow us to increase ambition if required?

Mr. Brian Carroll

There are a couple of pieces to that. The point I made the last time was that if, for example, we put the current legally binding target, which is a 30% reduction on greenhouse gas emissions in the non-ETS for Ireland, into legislation, it will very shortly be overtaken by the next EU target that we get. The point I was trying to make was that at any time we have an EU target, it is liable to be increased. The Senator's formulation of "at least" gets around that problem, but in terms of the way the climate Bill is framed, which I know is not the subject for discussion today, there is very strong governance around carbon budgets. Carbon budgets are the way to achieving the sort of outcome in which the Senator is interested. If we have this objective in the programme for Government of at least 7% per annum over the decade, and this is reflected in the two carbon budgets 2021 to 2025 and 2026 to 2030, those budgets set a very hard ceiling on the amount of emissions we can have for those two periods and effectively deliver a certain outcome for her by 2030.

I would suggest that the programme for Government and legislation are different things. As a non-member of Government I am focusing on the legislation at hand, but I thank Mr. Carroll for that clarification on the question of "at least".

I thank the witnesses for their time this morning and for their input. I have a question for Mr. Carroll and will focus on two elements. He referred to the just transition in his opening remarks and there were some questions around it. From his experience does he believe it is something that should be stated explicitly in legislation or should it be referred to and then fleshed out subsequently? He might give us his thoughts on that. He made a comment a few minutes ago about the review set for 2023. I believe that is the European Green Deal but he might elaborate on that.

Mr. Brian Carroll

I thank the Deputy. On the reference to the just transition and climate legislation, I am assuming the Deputy is referring to the climate Bill.

Mr. Brian Carroll

I am aware that the version of the Bill that was publicised referred to climate justice. We would have viewed the just transition as being a core part of climate justice but I am also aware that the committee is still deliberating and is due to report shortly on its consensus regarding proposed amendments to the Bill. The Minister has signalled that he is open to making appropriate amendments on foot of the deliberations of the committee so I would not want to pre-empt that.

With regard to the Deputy's second question on the 2023 review, that was in response to a question from Deputy Bruton. We currently have an national energy and climate plan, NECP, which has been submitted to the EU. It demonstrates how we will reach our current legally binding target, which is a 30% reduction by 2030.

The point I was making is that, in terms of the new ambition at EU level, we will have a new target in due course which will be bigger than the 30% target in terms of our contribution at EU level, and which we will then have to submit. It will be 2023 when we have to do that. It will be a new NECP which sets out the policies and measures as to how we are going to step up our ambition to deliver the higher target.

Is that NECP due for review here in Ireland in 2023?

Mr. Brian Carroll

It will be similar to the preparation of the NECP we have in at the moment. I am sorry but I left out a couple of steps. They are hoping to agree a general approach at Council in December to the climate law and the 55% target. A whole series of legislative proposals will then be published next June that will define the architecture that the Commission sees as shaping the delivery or governance of the new target. As part of that, there will have to be some sort of effort sharing among member states. What is published in June will then be subject to further discussion and consideration by both Council and Parliament, including bilateral engagements with member states. When that has settled, we will be required to produce a new NECP and I would imagine it will follow a similar process of consultation and analysis, before putting the plans and measures together and submitting it to the EU. That will be 2023.

What is the date of the European Council meeting?

Mr. Brian Carroll

Of the top of my head, I cannot remember. I have been prompted that it is 10 or 11 December but I will clarify that.

On behalf of the committee, I thank the officials for attending today and for this very worthwhile engagement. That concludes our scrutiny of EU legislative proposals COM (2020) 80 and COM (2020) 563. The meeting stands adjourned until we meet in private session at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, 17 November.

The joint committee adjourned at 12.32 p.m. until 11.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 25 November 2020.