I published the Government's Climate Action Plan on 17 June. The plan sets out, for the first time, how Ireland can reach its 2030 targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also put Ireland on the right trajectory towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. We have a great window of opportunity to reverse the current trend in emissions and secure a healthy more resilient future for the country. It means changing the way we heat our homes, the way we travel and the way we power the country. The step-up in ambition in each of the sectors covered by the plan will require investment across the entire economy. Overall, through the mix of technologies and measures identified, the plan sets out the pathway that represents the least-cost burden to the economy as a whole.
A significant portion of the technologies and measures set out in the plan will result also in net lifetime cost savings to the economy as a whole.
In terms of costs to the Exchequer and other public funding, the plan will be funded through Project Ireland 2040 which provides €30 billion for low carbon and sustainable mobility investments in the period to 2027.
Many of the actions in the plan do not require public funding. The actions contained in this plan fall broadly into four categories:
- public funding provided in the annual estimates process and in Project Ireland 2040
- measures such as setting a long-term trajectory for the carbon tax, in order to change long-term behaviour and decisions to encourage investment in more sustainable choices
- new regulations to end certain practices (e.g. phasing out oil and gas boilers in homes or introducing low emission zones in cities)
- actions to promote public and community engagement and participation in reducing our emissions
Under the Climate Action Plan, a system of carbon budgets is being developed. This will have a significant impact on the way in which the system of government works, with each relevant Minister being responsible for carbon emissions for their sector. Each Department will not just be required to stay within their fiscal budget, but also to stay within their carbon budget, which will be the total amount of emissions which their sector will be permitted to produce in a particular period. This new system of carbon budgets will be introduced into law by a new Climate Action (Amendment) Bill.
Each Government Department will have to determine the optimum approach to utilising the funding available to it to support the policies necessary to meet the targets proposed for each sector. The cost of delivering each target will depend on the mix of regulations, taxes, and subsidies which the Government may choose to deploy to achieve the target abatement range in each sector. The Climate Action Plan will be updated annually, which will allow us to take into account changing technologies and changing costs as we seek to meet 2030 and 2050 climate targets.
Public funding will be required to deliver some of the actions which have been set out. However, the plan proposes to introduce reforms so we maximise the impact of the funding which is available. This is particularly so in the case of retrofitting. The Plan identifies a range of measures that will be needed to deliver the retrofit target. A central commitment in that regard is the development of a new retrofitting delivery model, which will group retrofits together to achieve economies of scale, leverage private finance, and ensure easy pay-back methods. The savings on electricity bills from using less energy can help fund this, while homes will be warmer and produce lower levels of emissions.
It should also be noted that there would also be a very significant cost to the Exchequer for not implementing any policies to achieve compliance with our 2030 targets, which would also lock Ireland into a high carbon trajectory that would be unsustainable in the long-run.