The recently published Climate Action Plan to Tackle Climate Breakdown sets out a whole-of-Government approach to climate action and maps a potential pathway to meet Ireland's 2030 emission reduction commitments. The Plan clearly recognises that Ireland must significantly step up its commitments to address climate disruption.
The transport sector, which accounts for about 20% of Ireland overall carbon emissions (and about 27% of Ireland's accountable emissions in the non-ETS sector), plays a key role in the national decarbonisation effort. My Department has worked hard to develop an ambitious, challenging and wide-ranging set of actions for inclusion in the Climate Action Plan, particularly in relation to public transport and active travel.
It is estimated that public transport (bus, rail and taxi) accounts for a little over 1% of Ireland’s overall non-ETS carbon emissions, and less than one-twentieth of the emissions from the transport sector. Accordingly, converting our public transport fleets to lower-carbon alternatives including electricity will have a limited, though positive, impact on reducing national CO2 emissions. That said, I believe that moving to low-emission alternatives for public transport is important so as to promote and normalise the use of non-conventional lower-emitting fuels and technologies.
In the urban bus fleet, a clear trajectory to low-emission buses has been outlined. We are committed in Project Ireland 2040 to no longer purchase diesel-only buses for the urban public bus fleet from this month. In preparation for both this immediate transition and the development of a longer-term low-carbon bus procurement strategy, my Department, together with the National Transport Authority (NTA), Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann, has undertaken a comprehensive series of low-emission bus trials which are expected to conclude in the coming weeks. Under the BusConnects Programme it is expected that approximately half of the public urban bus fleet will have moved to lower-emitting alternatives by 2023 with full conversion by 2030.
The NTA has recently initiated a tender competition to award a “Framework Agreement for the Supply of Double-Deck Diesel-Electric Hybrid Buses” with the number of vehicles to be purchased being decided on an annual basis in line with replacement requirements, capacity needs and funding availability, in addition to taking into account developments in other vehicle technologies.
Electrifying key, heavily used elements of the rail network must also be considered if the transport sector is to achieve its decarbonisation objectives. We plan to create a full metropolitan area DART network for the Greater Dublin Area, which is the part of the national rail network that carries over 75% of total rail passengers each year. It will mean high-frequency electrified rail services to Drogheda, Celbridge/Hazelhatch, Maynooth and M3 Parkway, as well as new interchange stations with bus, LUAS and Metro networks. The NTA and Iarnród Éireann have recently commenced a procurement process for the establishment of a 10-year framework agreement for the purchase of additional lower-emitting rail fleet required for the expansion of the DART network. These major rail projects will help supplement the range of viable low-carbon alternatives to private passenger car travel and positively impact our sectoral emissions profile.
Finally, in the small public service vehicle (SPSV) or taxi sector, the Electric SPSV Grant Scheme opened to applicants in February 2018 and provides purchase reliefs of up to €7,000 for battery electric vehicles and up to €3,500 for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The Scheme was continued into 2019.
I am happy that a comprehensive programme of work is well underway to reduce the public transport sector’s carbon footprint.