On 20 June, I will launch the 'Transition to a Low-Carbon and Climate-Resilient Society' Strategic Investment Priority of Project Ireland 2040. This event, which will also be attended by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, and other members of the Cabinet, will have the theme of Empowering Communities for Climate Action. The event is being organised by my Department.
Recognising the key role of communities as enablers and drivers of the low carbon transition in society, this event will include two panel discussions exploring how to engage society with climate change and how, once engaged with the challenge, citizens can be empowered to act, focusing especially on the role of Government expenditure policy, taxation measures and regulation in underpinning climate action. These panel discussions will, in turn, further inform the development of initiatives under the National Dialogue on Climate Action, with the first Regional Gathering under the National Dialogue scheduled to take place on 23 June in Athlone.
Building on the National Mitigation Plan, the publication in February of the National Development Plan will lead to a significant step change in funding available for climate action in the next decade. Reflecting the strong commitment of the Government on this issue, almost €22 billion will be directed, between Exchequer and non-Exchequer resources, to addressing the transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient society. In addition, the national development plan allocated a further €8.6 billion for investments in sustainable mobility. This means that well over €1 in every €5 spent under the National Development Plan will be on climate mitigation and this capital investment will enable us to deliver a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the period to 2030.
The key investment priorities in the national development plan that my Department will take forward include:
- energy efficiency upgrades of 45,000 homes per annum from 2021 and providing support for a major roll-out of heat pump technologies;
- delivering energy upgrades to BER 'B' level in all public buildings and a minimum of one third of commercial buildings;
- implementing the new renewable electricity support scheme to deliver an additional 3,000-4,500 MW of renewable energy, with the initial focus on shovel ready projects which could contribute to meeting our 2020 targets;
- the roll-out of the support scheme for renewable heat and national smart metering programme;
- transitioning the Moneypoint plant away from coal by the middle of the next decade;
- having at least 500,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030 with additional charging infrastructure to cater for planned growth; and
- a €500 million climate action fund, under which I will shortly open applications for funding, to leverage investment by public and private bodies in climate action measures.
Both the National Mitigation Plan and the National Development Plan explicitly recognise that the reliance solely on Exchequer expenditure schemes is neither affordable nor adequate to meet the scale of the challenge to be addressed, and that climate mitigation action will require a targeted balance between Exchequer-supported expenditure, taxation measures, regulation and behavioural change.
In certain cases, taxation policy may have a stronger role to play in changing individual or business behaviour and investment decisions, including harnessing non-Exchequer finance. Carbon tax, in particular, has a critical role in climate mitigation policy and the national mitigation plan commits the Department of Finance to completing a review in 2018, with a view to setting a long-term trajectory for the evolution of this tax. Clear long-term signalling by the Government on the future evolution of the tax is vital, as well as an examination of what other changes to the taxation regime could be considered that would assist with the achievement of climate targets. The low emission vehicle task force is bringing forward proposals in this regard.
As regards significant regulatory change, the National Development Plan commits the Government to no new non-zero emission cars to be sold in Ireland post-2030, with no NCT certificates to be issued for non-zero emission cars post-2045. There is also to be a transition to a low emission urban bus fleet, including electric buses, with no diesel only buses purchased from 1 July 2019.
In terms of ongoing climate mitigation policy development, the European Union requires that we produce a draft National Energy and Climate Plan by the end of 2018, with the final plan to be developed by the end of 2019. This represents a further opportunity to build on the National Mitigation Plan and the National Development Plan to ensure Ireland moves to a pathway of long-term decarbonisation. Furthermore, as well as the ongoing development of the National Mitigation Plan as a living document, I am required, under the 2015 Act, to bring forward a new National Mitigation Plan at least once every five years. The latest date by which this must happen is, therefore, July 2022.