The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with producing annual projections of greenhouse gas emissions for Ireland, in collaboration with relevant State and other bodies. The latest EPA projections, published in April 2017, which reflect the implementation of policies and measures as of the end of 2015, indicate that Ireland is expected to exceed its annual non-ETS sector emissions limits under the EU Effort Sharing Decision from 2017 onwards, and that emissions could be between 4% and 6% below 2005 levels by 2020.
The projected shortfall to our targets in 2020 reflects both the constrained investment capacity over the past decade due to the economic crisis, and the extremely challenging nature of the target itself. It is now accepted that Ireland’s 2020 target was not consistent with what would be achievable on an EU wide cost-effective basis. In the light of this, Ireland’s 2030 target will present a very significant challenge.
As a means of addressing this challenge, I published Ireland’s first statutory National Mitigation Plan last July. It provides a framework to guide investment decisions by Government in domestic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A key objective of the Plan is to close the gap to Ireland's 2020 EU target and to prepare for the EU targets that Ireland will take on for 2030. The Plan sets out over 70 individual mitigation measures and 106 related actions to reduce emissions in the four sectors with the most significant contribution to national emissions (Electricity Generation; the Built Environment; Transport; and Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use). Although the Plan does not provide a complete roadmap to achieve either Ireland’s proposed 2030 target or the 2050 transition objective, it has established the framework for the development and implementation of medium-to-long-term policy options so as to achieve progressive emissions reductions in each of its four key sectors.
The Plan is also a living document that will be updated as on-going analysis, dialogue and technological innovation generate more and more cost-effective sectoral mitigation options. The most recent list of measures currently in place in the context of National Mitigation Plan is set out in the 2017 Annual Transition Statement, which I laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 8 December last. This Statement details the key measures in place in the respective sectors, the objective for each measure, estimated mitigation potential and funding information, where appropriate.
Building on the approach set out in the National Mitigation Plan, the Government’s recently launched ‘Project Ireland 2040’, comprising the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan 2018-2027, which will support significant progress towards Ireland’s National Transition Objective for 2050. National Strategic Objective 8 of The National Development Plan commits funding of €21.8 billion towards climate action investments, including some €14 billion to be invested by Ireland’s semi-state companies and by the private sector. This means that almost €1 in every €5 to be spent in the framework of the National Development Plan over the next decade will be on climate action, with a strong focus on strategic investments in the areas of transport, renewable energy, grid development and interconnection, the built environment, and flood risk management, to address the significant climate change challenges that Ireland faces.
This funding commitment provides a clear opportunity for significant upscaling in our investments to deliver deep emissions reductions in the coming decade and to further develop and implement the National Mitigation Plan. This will be essential both in order to meet Ireland’s targets, under the draft EU Effort Sharing Regulation, for a 30% reduction in non-ETS sector by 2030, relative to 2005 levels, as well as to make significant progress towards Ireland’s National Transition Objective for 2050 to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Ireland by at least 80% (compared to 1990 levels) 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.