April 22, 2021

The Irish Times view on Ireland’s emissions cuts

A recent report by the Irish Times suggests that Ireland risks falling behind other developed countries in terms of its emission reduction plans.

The latest report published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) displays some positive signs that certain elements of the Irish economy are nearly on the right path towards sustained decarbonisation.

Total emissions within the power generation sector and with major industrial businesses, which represent part of the EU emissions trading system, declined by over 6% in 2020 to reach their lowest level since being introduced back in 2005. This equated to a reduction of just under 1 million tonnes of CO2. Reductions in the electricity sector declined by over 8% as a consequence of the rapidly rising renewable energy industry and the reduced reliance on fossil fuels such as peat in Ireland’s energy mix.

The figures correspond with reports from Eirgrid that over 40% of Ireland’s electricity came from renewable energy sources last year, record-breaking figures highlighting that Ireland achieved one of the targets set in the Paris Agreement.

Putting the positives aside, the Irish Times has suggested that the rate of decarbonisation in Ireland is nowhere near the level required. The performance in reducing emissions associated with power, heavy industry and aviation didn’t meet the average decreases of 11 and 12% across Europe. The latest figures also lack information on emissions in transport, agriculture and heat, which are rising in various areas, and the declines associated with the pandemic lockdowns are showing the likely signs of being temporary.

The Times suggests that Ireland risks falling behind other developed nations which are continuing to move forward with the transition, at a time when the EU and the United States are requesting more demanding global targets to be implemented before the start of the COP26 global summit later this year.

What is needed to get Ireland on the right pathway is quite clear. Two factors that stand out are the unnecessary delays regarding implementing clear guidelines on wind and solar development and obvious barriers in developing the necessary infrastructure.

The Times believes the climate bill must be adopted quickly to ensure Ireland’s first carbon budget can go ahead later this year. The Maritime Area Planning Bill is also important in providing greater certainty for those groups focused on developing offshore wind projects where Ireland has a particular advantage.

The policies to enable accelerated decarbonisation are there but require structured timelines on delivery to ensure Ireland continues to move quickly in the right direction.