The 2014 National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development sets out an ambitious long-term commitment 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; and in parallel, to pursue an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.
Under the Paris Agreement, the EU has committed to a reduction of at least 40% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, to be achieved by reductions in the Emission Trading System (ETS) sector of 43% and in the non-ETS sector of 30%. The EU Effort Sharing Regulation, which entered into force on 9 July 2018, sets out binding annual greenhouse gas emission targets for each Member State for the period 2021 to 2030. Ireland’s target under this Regulation will be for a 30% reduction in non-ETS emissions (compared to 2005 levels) by 2030, with a starting point of May 2019, based on average emissions over the period 2016 to 2018.
The latest projections of greenhouse gas emissions, published by the EPA in May 2018, indicate that emissions from those sectors of the economy covered by the 2009 Effort Sharing Decision could be between 0% and 1% below 2005 levels by 2020.
While this is very disappointing, it is not surprising given the recent pace of economic growth, with increases in emissions from the agriculture and transport sectors in particular. The projected shortfall to our targets is further exacerbated by both the constrained investment capacity over the past decade due to the economic crisis, and the extremely challenging nature of the target itself.
Ireland's National Mitigation Plan (NMP), published in 2017, provides a framework to guide investment decisions by Government in domestic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Plan sets out the policy measures required in order to manage Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions at a level appropriate for making progress towards our long-term national transition objective, as set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, as well as to take into account our EU and international obligations. Although this first Plan does not provide a complete roadmap to achieve our national transition objective to 2050, it begins the process of development of medium- to long-term options to ensure that we are well positioned to take the necessary actions in the next and future decades. Building on the NMP, the publication in February 2018 of the National Development Plan (NDP), will lead to a significant step change in funding available for climate action over the next decade. 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 NDP allocated a further €8.6 billion for investments in sustainable mobility.
The 2015 Energy White Paper presents a long-term strategic vision that is intended to guide the direction of energy policy from now until 2030. The White Paper identifies the importance of diversifying Ireland's energy generation portfolio and largely decarbonising the energy sector by 2050 but also recognises that some fossil fuels will remain significant elements of Ireland’s energy supply in that transition period.
The 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive sets Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020. Good progress has been made to date, but the target remains challenging, particularly in light of economic growth and a growing demand for energy. Latest data from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) indicates that 10.6% of Ireland’s energy requirements in 2017 were met from renewable sources, with an expectation that Ireland will achieve a range of potentially up to 90% by 2020. The SEAI has also estimated that the contribution of renewables avoided €276 million of fossil fuel imports in 2017.
The Government has also adopted a range of policy measures and schemes to incentivise the use of renewable energy including the Renewable Energy Feed-In-Tariff (REFIT) schemes. In addition, my Department is developing the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), which will be designed to assist Ireland in meeting its renewable energy contributions out to 2030; and the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH), the purpose of which is to reduce the use of fossil fuels within the heating sector.