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Climate Change Negotiations

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 1 June 2021

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Ceisteanna (74)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

74. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the Irish position in relation to extension of the emission trading system to new sectors and to the negotiation of a new effort to sharing target for member states as part of the new EU approach Fit for Fifty Five. [29518/21]

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Freagraí ó Béal (4 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Environment)

This question is just to clarify an issue. In the European negotiations going on under what I believe is a title called the Fit for 55 package, as the targets that are being set are being enhanced. Ireland has a target of of 43% reduction in the emissions trading system, ETS, and 30% including flexibilities in non-ETS. Can the Minister now tell me what the EU is now seeking of us and what the Government's position is in these negotiations?

I thank Deputy Bruton. With the 2030 Climate Target Plan and EU climate law, the EU will raise its ambition on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 55% below 1990 levels by 2030. This is a substantial increase compared to the existing 40% emissions reduction cut. The Commission is preparing to present by July 2021 an overhaul of all relevant climate legislation as part of a what is called a Fit for 55 Package to align with the newly proposed target.

Ireland fully supports the enhanced ambition at EU level. It is consistent with the national approach, as the programme for Government commits to achieve net zero emissions by no later than 2050, and a 51% emissions reduction by 2030.

However, in the absence of the Commission’s proposals, it is not possible yet to analyse the potential impact on Ireland in terms of technical feasibility, cost-effectiveness and fairness. Ireland has agreed with other member states that the Commission should swiftly put forward its legislative package, together with an in-depth examination of the environmental, economic and social impact at member state level.

It will be important that the updated EU 2030 target of at least 55% is delivered collectively by the EU in the most cost-effective manner possible, balancing considerations of fairness, cost effectiveness and solidarity, and ensuring that no one is left behind.

If I may refer to one further specific issue which has been debated at length at the Council meetings which is the issue of whether the ETS would be extended, particularly into the areas of heating and transport. I am interested to hear the Deputy's own views but my own perspective, which I have shared with the European Council, is that particularly in our country with the commitment which is now legal to increase carbon tax, year in and year out until 2032 to a level of €100 a tonne, a change in the ETS in the transport area would have significant knock-on and difficult consequences for us. That is not an initiative that I will be supporting within the Fit for 55 Package negotiations process.

My concern is, in particular, on the challenges that we face in agriculture and land use. At the moment there is no provision for recognising land use other than through the flexibilities. If we are to see significant progress on agricultural emissions we will have to be in a position to pay farmers for effectively carbon farming. That does not seem to be in the proposals. That might emerge if agriculture entered into the ETS. What negotiating stance is being taken by Ireland? Are we seeking to introduce land use into this so that sequestration done on farms will be a credit against our obligations? We need to change the system that is now in place if we are to drive change in a way that reflects the phrase just transition within the sector.

Much of what happens here will depend on the outcome of the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, negotiations which are not concluded yet. I will be honest in saying that I will be very supportive of new income streams that we can create to pay for nature-based or environmental services that our farming community might deliver. It is critical that the CAP negotiations help in delivering on that.

The Deputy will be aware that many of the regulations around land use issues are set at an international, UN level. The European Union has not to date set out detailed proposals regarding sinks as well as sources of carbon. I expect that to change in this coming decade and that we will start to see land use and sinks coming much more within the European system.

From our perspective and our own targets, we are very much aligning to the UN process because that is where, in the end, this issue will have to be decided. In that regard we are involved in the diplomatic arena in looking at getting the best possible measurements of the effect of, in particular, biogenic methane to reflect the need to protect nature and to provide incomes to our farmers.

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