Ireland’s Draft National Energy and Climate Plan Require Major Revision

Fr Sean McDonagh

A report published by the Irish Central  Statistics Office (CSO) in August 2018  stated that Ireland was way off track in reaching its carbon reduction targets. In fact, the country had the third highest per capita greenhouse emissions rates within the EU in 2015. In terms of sectors that produce greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture was the worst offender, accounting for 32 per cent of the total in 2016, followed by transport and energy at 20 per cent.

This is why An Taisce, the largest environmental organisation in Ireland, of which I am president, has challenged Ireland’s Draft National Energy And Climate Plan (NECP).It calls for urgent revision by the end of 2019 to ensure that the finalised Plan includes ambitious plans for substantial and sustained reductions in annual greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Crucially, the Draft NECP fails to deliver on either alternative energy systems or ways to reduced agriculture emissions. The CSO figures show that in 2016 Ireland had thefourth largest cattle herd in Europe.  In terms of forestry,the CSO figures show that in 2015, 10.6 per cent of the country’s land area was covered by forestry, the second lowest rate in the EU.

The Draft NECP also shows no coherent climate action aligned with Ireland’s commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The Draft Plan demonstrates that the Irish government has failed to grasp the overarching imperative of sharply and permanently cutting greenhouse gases (GHGs) from every part of our economy. This includes the built environment, transport, energy and agriculture.

All four Draft Scenarios presented in the NECP only show a ‘flat-lining’ of total annual fossil fuel CO₂ emissions between the years 2015-2040. This misses the point completely, as ‘flat-lining’ means continuing to pump ever more emissions into the atmosphere when we need instead to urgently cut these emissions, year by year, all the way to net zero by mid-century.

Furthermore, the Draft NECP fails to show scenarios coherent with Ireland’s existing climate policy, widely understood as a linear annual reduction in CO₂ to at least an 80% reduction in 2050 compared with 1990 levels.

Worse, the Draft NECP’s data projections show no reduction in annual GHG emissions from agriculture and land use until 2035. This means that there is effectively no serious attempt to reach carbon neutrality in the agriculture sector at any time in the future.

An Taisce points out that, while the Draft NECP points towards a move to lower carbon fossil energy usage in the grid, in reality, this is just a shift from coal and peat to gas, with little change in oil use. Rapid decarbonisation in line with our Paris Agreement commitment requires urgent reductions in emissions from all fossil fuel sources. Simply switching from one fossil fuel to another does not and cannot achieve this objective.

An Taisce regrets that the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change which was held in November 2017 have not been taken into account in the Draft NECP. An Taisce urges that the will of the Irish public, as clearly expressed through the Assembly, be reflected in the final document.

We are glad that the high school students who are protesting about the Irish government’s lack of vision on this vital issue will finally push the government to take real steps to lower Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions. The students are also demanding the Irish government the Climate Assembly’s other recommendations on this topic.

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One Comment

  1. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    I’m breaking protocol.

    Yes, while I’m here late at night moderating “Extinction Rebellion”s Canada Facebook page, I often wonder when politics is going to become enviro-centric instead of weaving its true methods and concerns in and out of sectors, the environment included.

    Well, the good thing is that the Roman Catholic Church taught me at a young age (11) not to trust hierarchical associations. Extinction Rebellion is non-hierarchical and they are calling for net zero carbon emissions by 2025 and for governments to start telling people the truth. The big truth that everyone is avoiding is that even with a great drawdown plan, plastics are already bringing a proverbial sword to the earth by way of ocean destruction and synthetics that have crept into our everyday lives.

    So what? Call a constitutional lawyer in Toronto and he says “We have no rights in Canada to clean, air, and water and we are alone among many countries in this respect. I draw again from my ventolin inhaler as I hear the news – 75-year-old lungs based on synthetics. So “Our Children’s Trust” has been broken and we are constantly looking for new wineskins. You can teach old dogs new tricks I’ve learned – you don’t need new wineskins when the wine is overtaking everything – there isn’t a vessel that can hold it when it is flowing as it should. It’s like a tsunami coming up against the shoreline when hearts are open. Indoctrinated minds are that old wineskin.

    The local Catholic Church wasn’t interested from what I understand and now I’m talking to lawyers and politicians and watchdogs groups who are highly efficient at self-promotion but nothing else. Aggregate efficiency eclipsed at 20%. If only there were an ultra robust carbon sequestering plant that could help bring an end to the planned obsolescence we are experiencing out of tax-necessity and not human need. If that plant was also a source of protein, all the better – oh wait! That plant does exist. It’s called hemp – probably more important to plant potatoes though to keep those diabetes numbers at a healthy level for pharmaceutical-based retirement savings.

    Whatever the case, if you are not pushing to enact a parish carbon-neutral programme, don’t ever expect to fill those seats with young people. The tsunami you are looking for will never materialize. In Cape Breton, it was “not feasible” despite the Diocese being handed the artist residency it would need to launch such an initiative – they didn’t like who was handing it to them, is what I’ve been able to surmise.

    We all have gifts under this sun (son).

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