The recently published Climate Action Plan 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 tackle climate disruption.
The transport sector, which accounts for about 20% of Ireland’s overall carbon emissions, plays a key role in the national decarbonisation effort. It is worth noting that transport emissions are classified under both the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) and non-ETS systems. Generally, non-domestic emissions such as those from international aviation within Europe are accounted for under the ETS system while domestic transport emissions fall under the non-ETS system. The Climate Action Plan deals primarily with the non-ETS sector, where Ireland has a legal binding emissions reduction target of 20% by 2020 and 30% by 2030 (relative to 2005 levels). Accordingly, the focus of the transport elements of the Plan relate mainly to reducing land transport emissions and not those generated by international travel and in-coming tourists.
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. A critical challenge is reducing the 52% of transport emissions that come from private car use. Our aim in expanding the carrying capacity and the attractiveness of our public transport and active travel networks is to provide a viable sustainable alternative to private car use for more people for more of their journeys. Under Project Ireland 2040, an indicative allocation of €8.6 billion is assigned to support sustainable mobility ensuring that public transport and active travel become more available and attractive alternatives.
A switch to electric vehicles (EVs) is a key mitigation measure of the Plan, with a target of almost 950,000 EVs on Irish roads by 2030. While this level of transition is incredibly challenging, as technologies improve and become cheaper, and if we continue incentives and invest in the recharging network we are ambitious that with a real push we can make real progress towards this target by 2030. Concerted efforts across several Departments will be essential if we are to maintain a supportive environment to assist citizens in making the greener choice and switching to an EV. My Department and I will work closely with Ministers Bruton and Donohoe and their respective Departments to map out the roadmap that will be necessary to achieve our collective ambition.
In terms of tourism, while there are no specific actions in the Plan, climate change can have direct and indirect impacts on Ireland’s tourism industry. Urban tourism may be less affected than coastal tourism where sea level rise, increasing ocean acidification and coastal erosion can threaten Ireland’s coastal tourism infrastructure and natural attractions. It is difficult to predict possible changes to Ireland’s attractiveness as a destination as a result of climate change and the impact of this on the economic value of tourism in Ireland and tourism demand. Destination attractions such as Skellig Michael and the Burren could be especially vulnerable; therefore the role of the tourism sector in adaptation planning is extremely important.
The range of implications of climate change on the transport, tourism, and even sport sectors means that I and my Department are fully committed to achieving the climate change objectives set out in the Climate Action Plan. I am personally committed to the decarbonisation of the transport sector and I hope to see transport emissions levels continue to fall as they did in 2018. Indeed, every sector must step-up if Ireland is to meet our emission reduction targets in 2030 and beyond.