Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Questions (196, 198, 199)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

196. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the actions he has taken or plans to take to address priorities in regard to climate action; the extent to which such action taken or proposed is likely to impact positively in the context of climate change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41496/18]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

198. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps he is most likely to undertake to achieve maximum beneficial effect in the context of carbon reduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41498/18]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

199. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which dependency on fossil fuels has been reduced in the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41499/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 196, 198 and 199 together.

Addressing climate change, whether through decarbonisation of our economy, or preparing to adapt to the impacts of climate change, is one of the most significant challenges facing this country.

The publication on Monday of the Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the impacts of global warming of 1.5C confirms the absolute urgency of achieving deep cuts in our greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades.

The Government has responded to this challenge by putting in place a strong policy framework underpinned by significant investment plans in climate action. The 2014 National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development sets out an ambitious long-term commitment to transition to a competitive, low carbon, climate resilient economy and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Ireland by at least 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors. In parallel, the National Policy Position commits to pursing an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.

The enactment, in December 2015, of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act, provides the statutory basis for the national transition objective, for the development and submission to Government for approval of a series of National Mitigation Plans and National Adaptation Frameworks, and for independent advisory and Oireachtas accountability arrangements.

Ireland’s first National Mitigation Plan was published in July 2017 and provides a framework to guide Government investment decisions in measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from four key sectors: Electricity Generation; Built Environment; Transport; and Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use.

The Plan set out 106 actions and 60 measures to reduce our emissions. It is a ‘living document’ which is being updated on an on-going basis as analysis, dialogue and technological innovation generate more and more cost-effective sectoral mitigation options.

I subsequently published Ireland’s first statutory National Adaptation Framework in January 2018. Under the Framework, seven Government Departments and Agencies, with responsibility for the twelve priority sectors identified in the Framework, are required to submit sectoral adaptation plans to Government for approval by 30 September 2019.

Furthermore, recognising the significant obligation which has been placed on the Local Authority sector to develop and implement its own climate action measures, I provided funding to establish and develop four Local Authority Climate Action Regional Offices. These offices will ensure links between sectors and provide expertise and capacity at local and regional level to contribute effectively to the national transition to a low carbon and climate resilient economy.

The publication of the National Development Plan in February of this year represented a step-change in the Government’s commitment to climate change, with €21.8 billion in funding directed to addressing the transition to a low-carbon society. This is in addition to major further investment of €8.6 billion in sustainable transport, including the DART expansion, Metro Link and the Bus Connects programme. This capital investment will enable us to deliver a significant reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions over the period to 2030. I am taking a number of immediate steps to achieve maximum emissions reduction to seek to address Ireland’s targets for 2020 and to prepare us for the more challenging targets that Ireland will face for 2030.

In relation to biofuels, in May of this year, I signed an order increasing the obligation rate of fuel suppliers from the current level of 8% by volume to a level of 10% by volume which will come into effect from 1 January 2019. I intend to further increase this obligation to 11% by volume from 1 January 2020 and also carry out a public consultation next year in relation to further increases in the post-2020 period. 

In order to promote further penetration of electric vehicles, I have secured Government support to expand the range of measures in place drive the electrification of transport, adding home charger support, Benefit in kind enhancement, toll reduction and support to the taxi/hackney sector.

I opened the first phase of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat for applications on 12 September.  This phase provides a grant of up to 30% of the installation cost of a heat pump system in non-domestic applications. 

I launched the first call for applications for the Climate Action Fund on 9 July. This is one of four funds established under the National Development Plan 2018-2027 as part of Project Ireland 2040 and it will have an allocation of at least €500 million over the period to 2027.

I secured Government approval in July for the high level design of the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). The new Scheme has been designed to deliver Ireland’s contribution towards an EU-wide renewable energy target of 32% out to 2030, within a competitive auction-based, cost effective framework. The first RESS auction will deliver ‘shovel ready’ projects, reducing the gap to 2020 and assisting in the early delivery for our trajectory to 2030.

In relation to the reduction in Ireland’s dependency on fossil fuels, the latest available data, published in the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland report, Energy in Ireland 2016, indicates that total displacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy resulted in approximately €342 million in fossil fuel imports being avoided in 2016, leading to a saving of 3.9 million tonnes of CO2. The overall trend in the contribution of renewable energy to total energy use over the past three years, relative to Ireland's targets for 2020, is set out in the following table.

Sector/Sub-sector

2015 achieved %

2016 achieved %

2017 achieved %*

2020 target %

RES-E (Electricity)

25.3

27.2

30.1

40

RES-H (Heat)

6.6

6.8

6.8

12

RES-T (Transport)

5.7

5.0

7.1

10

RES Overall

9.1

9.5

10.6

16

*Percentages are provisional data from SEAI.