I thank the Chairman and members for the opportunity to address the joint committee on this topic of carbon budgets. I am joined by my colleagues, Mr. Seán Armstrong, Ms Alma Walsh, Mr. Michael MacDonagh and Ms Suzanne Nally.
Housing for All sets a target of an average of 33,000 dwellings per annum. The State plans to invest €20 billion in the next five years, which is the largest investment in housing in the history of the State. Over its lifetime, Housing for All seeks to eradicate homelessness and promote social inclusion. It takes account of our climate action targets though the following policies.
One is the implementation of nearly zero energy buildings through the building regulations, which will ensure that while we achieve more energy-efficient buildings we also build healthy, sustainable and durable buildings suitable for the Irish climate both today and in the future. In addition, the Department's retrofitting programme for local authority housing is an essential measure to target climate justice. The Department plans to retrofit approximately 40% of local authority dwellings not currently performing to a building energy rating, BER, of B2 up to B2 or cost optimal equivalent by 2030. There is also the national planning framework objective to promote compact urban growth and town centres first.
As set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, the Climate Change Advisory Council, CCAC, published proposed carbon budgets in October 2021. These proposed budgets are planned to be presented to the Oireachtas and approved by the Government in the coming months. The Government will then set sectoral emissions ceilings determining how each sector of the economy will contribute to the achievement of the budgets. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is implementing a range of ambitious decarbonisation actions for housing, planning, marine and natural heritage protection and analysis of Ireland’s climate. In 2021, we worked with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and a range of other Departments and agencies to publish the Climate Action Plan 2021.
I will give the committee an overview of the many areas this Department is working on to achieve our shared goals of achieving net zero emissions no later than 2050 and a 51% reduction in emissions by the end of this decade. The statutory national marine planning framework, established in 2021, sets out objectives and policies, including in respect of climate change adaptation and mitigation, which must be considered with regard to all programmes, plans or policies and consenting, approvals or regulations in Ireland’s maritime area. Management of Ireland’s maritime area is being reformed through the Maritime Area Planning Act, which was signed by President Higgins on 23 December last. The emerging plan-led system will provide a foundation for climate measures, such as meeting renewable energy targets through offshore renewable energy installations, and identify ways that all activities in the maritime area can contribute to carbon reduction and adaptation measures.
I am pleased to advise that the Climate Action Plan 2021 aligns closely with the Housing for All strategy in areas such as compact growth, nearly zero energy buildings and retrofit of social housing. While the retrofitting of the existing buildings is the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, this Department is showing public sector leadership in our ambitious programme of retrofitting social housing. The Department has made a submission to the national development plan that 36,500 local authority-owned houses will be retrofitted to a BER of B2 by 2030, at an estimated cost of €1.2 billion. In 2022, the energy efficiency retrofitting programme will see a significant increase in funding support to local authorities to €85 million, allowing 2,400 homes nationally to be upgraded to a B2 or equivalent standard.
The national planning framework, NPF, puts climate action and the national objective to transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient society by 2050 as a central outcome. In addition, it promotes compact growth. The overall NPF strategy is for a better balance of development between the regions and a greater focus on Ireland’s cities, where 50% of development overall is targeted, with 50% of that growth to be supported to take place in the four cities other than Dublin. The introduction of nearly zero energy buildings, NZEB, and major renovations performance requirements in building regulations by my Department in 2019 is already making a significant contribution to these targets. Central Statistics Office analysis shows that 97% of new dwellings have an A rated building energy rating and the BER database shows that 80% of new dwellings built to these 2019 regulations have installed heat pumps.
Measures to protect biodiversity are also a welcome inclusion in the plan, as are measures to restore and rehabilitate Ireland’s peatlands. The restoration and protection of raised bogs is an action for this Department in Ireland's climate action plan. Returning peatlands to more natural conditions will deliver a range of climate benefits through reduced carbon emissions, long-term carbon storage, increased carbon sequestration and enhanced resilience to the locked-in impacts of climate change. The Department has accelerated significantly its programme of restoration for raised bog special areas of conservation and natural heritage areas in recent years with assistance from the carbon tax fund and Exchequer funding for the Department. The programme has allowed the creation and sustainment of a number of jobs in the midlands region in particular. The Department is currently drafting the fourth national biodiversity action plan, with a review of the third plan also planned.
As the Department with responsibility for water quality, including good agricultural practices for the protection of water regulations, the inclusion of measures in the climate action plan to address inputs from agriculture, such as reducing the usage of chemical fertiliser, will bring benefits to the quality of our rivers and lakes and for climate change. A key commitment in the programme for Government is to publish a strengthened river basin management plan in 2022 to advance Ireland’s commitment to ensuring a robust and effective policy for water services and water quality through the implementation of the EU water framework directive. In developing the final plan and its programme of measures, the Department will seek to identify those measures that will deliver multiple benefits for water, biodiversity and climate change.
Met Éireann has also provided significant actions which will deliver climate services as enablers of climate action in areas such as water, transport, energy and biodiversity.
In addition to these major actions, which will make significant impacts on carbon emissions, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has a number of supporting actions, which are critical to the reductions. These include wind energy guidelines, measures to support the reduction of embodied carbon in construction materials and implementation of requirements for electric vehicle recharging infrastructure. The sectoral contributions of these actions will be captured in other sectors. Specific actions under all these policy areas are outlined in the climate action plan, which the Department is working to implement.
We have ambitious targets in terms of the quantity, type and location of homes to be delivered and we are also ambitious for climate action, including energy efficient housing. Through our building regulations we are ensuring the quality of the homes we are building for future generations continues to achieve the high standards we are setting for decarbonisation of our built environment. We are happy to address any questions the members of the committee may have.