In releasing the outline Heads of the Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Bill on 26 February 2013, I made a statement in which I addressed greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, with a view to putting the record straight on this critical issue. In that statement, a copy of which is available on my Department’s website (www.environ.ie), I pointed out that Ireland already has a challenging greenhouse gas mitigation target for 2020, which is binding under EU law. Compliance with that target is not an option; it is absolutely paramount and any ambition we set at a national level must, and will, respect compliance with this fundamental mitigation commitment and future increases in ambition. As can be seen in Head 3 of the outline Heads of the Bill, the legislation being developed by Government will be unequivocal on compliance with existing and future obligations of the State under EU law and any international agreement to which the State becomes a party.
Overall, the outline Heads reflect a strongly progressive approach to the fundamental challenge of greenhouse gas mitigation, having regard to Ireland’s distinctive greenhouse gas emissions profile and the challenges it presents for the agriculture and food sectors, in particular. Looked at in isolation, the formal construct of Head 4 for legal drafting purposes may not convey the true extent of the ambition being set by Government. However, when looked at in the broader context of all proposed provisions, particularly those in Head 5, and the parallel advances in policy development, the progressive and highly ambitious agenda now proposed by Government is clear. The proposed provisions in Head 5 would place a statutory obligation on Government to adopt and implement national and sectoral plans to enable the State to transition to a low-carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy in the period to 2050.
In anticipation of the planned legislation, work on the development of key sectoral mitigation plans has already been initiated. In the update on progress on the development of national climate policy and legislation which I issued on 28 December 2012, I announced that Departments with responsibility for key sectors in the transition to a low carbon economy had already been tasked with the preparation of individual 2050 low-carbon roadmaps. This step in the overall policy development process provides an opportunity for the Departments concerned, who are best placed in terms of ownership and understanding of their sectors, to lead the process of framing the low-carbon vision/objective for their sectors and to undertake the evaluation that is necessary to develop a robust and cost-effective policy platform for delivery of that vision in their area.
The key sectors are energy/built environment, transport and agriculture. While near zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2050 should set the context for the energy/built environment and transport sectoral roadmaps, generally reflecting the ambition at EU level, carbon neutrality is considered to be the more appropriate approach in the case of the agriculture sector.
The objective is to finalise these sectoral roadmaps – including a reasonable period of public consultation in the fourth quarter of this year. These sectoral roadmaps are an essential first step towards development of an overall national 2050 roadmap to a low-carbon society with a competitive low-carbon economy being finalised by my Department in early 2014.
Consistent with the Government commitment to Ireland’s obligations under EU Decision 406/2009/EC and its progressive approach to the development of national climate policy, the focus for securing compliance with EU law in the period to 2020 will be on domestic mitigation rather than the purchase of additional carbon credits.