The Government has unveiled its €125bn Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon emissions by 51% by 2030.
Issues from how we heat our homes, to the cars we drive and how our food is produced are tackled in a report which seeks to fundamentally alter the way we live our lives in what is being called Climate Action Plan 21 (Cap21).
Major emissions reductions in every sector of society including agriculture, energy, transport, construction and housing are outlined in a plan that is already raising concerns around its capacity to deliver on its promise.
This plan sets a roadmap for taking decisive action to halve the country’s emissions by 2030 and reach net zero no later than 2050, as committed to in the programme for government.
The plan makes clear that some sectors will be more impacted than others, and the Government will need to help people with the costs of the so-called ‘just-transition’ to ensure it happens.
OVERALL COST OF THE PLAN:
An early estimate suggested delivery of the plan could require €45bn of additional investment compared to if Ireland took no climate action at all.
Of the additional €45bn in capital expenditure, €25bn (55%) is estimated to be invested in the buildings sector, €15bn (35%) in the power sector, and €5bn (10%) in transport.
However, the report states delivery of Cap21 could require a further €80bn of reallocated funds (public and private) between now and 2030.
The recently published National Development Plan sets out a total public investment of €165bn over the period 2021 to 2030.
This will bring public investment to 5% per cent of gross national income, well above the recent EU average of 3% of gross domestic product.
Cap21 calls for a reduction in electricity emissions of between 62% and 81% by 2030.
Among the most important measures in the plan is to increase the proportion of renewable electricity to up to 80% by 2030, including an increased target of up to 5GW of offshore wind energy.
“This will not just reduce our emissions from electricity, it will allow us to electrify other sectors such as transport and heat and reduce our emissions in these sectors too,” the report states.
The Government will also introduce a small-scale generator scheme for farmers, business, and communities to generate their own electricity and feed into the grid.
As well as developing improved storage, the State will also begin to deploy renewable gas such as biomethane and green hydrogen. The Government will review its strategy on data centres to ensure the sector will be in alignment with sectoral emissions ceilings and support renewable energy targets, the report states.
Industry and business are expected to deliver emission reductions of between 29% and 41% by 2030, the report states.
It says the green economy, including retrofitting, renewable energy, clean mobility, and sustainable agriculture will create high-quality employment, and the IDA will also seek to attract businesses to invest in decarbonisation technologies.
The Government will also produce a climate toolkit for business.
Among the measures to cut emissions are increasing the uptake of carbon-neutral heating, and decreasing the embodied carbon in building materials through using more wood in construction.
Retrofitting over half a million homes is set to deliver emission reductions of between 44% and 56%, the Cap21 states.
Under the National Development Plan, the Government has already committed to retrofitting 500,000 homes by 2030, including increased funding, particularly for free upgrades for low-income households.
The plan commits to the installation of 680,000 renewable energy heat sources in both new and existing residential buildings.
“We recognise that we will need to work out ways to assist broader society with the costs of retrofitting. The new national retrofit plan will drive demand, make retrofitting more affordable, and expand the capacity of the industry, including training of workers,” the report states.
Other measures include increased targets for district heating and the public sector and strengthening building standards for all buildings.
Transport is the second worst offender in terms of emissions and this plan commits to a reduction of between 42% and 50% by 2030.
The major highlight in the plan is the desire to see 500,000 extra walking, cycling and public transport journeys per day by 2030.
It also wants to increase the proportion of kilometres driven by passenger electric cars to between 40- 45% by 2030, in addition to a reduction of 10% in kilometres driven by the remaining internal combustion engine cars.
It is expected that by the mid-2020s, EVs (cars and vans) will reach total cost of ownership parity with petrol or diesel vehicles. However until then, “a robust package of regulatory, taxation, engagement and subsidy measures to maintain a secure supply of models to our market”, must be implemented, the plan states.
A dedicated office of low emitting vehicles will be established to act as a one-stop shop for members of the public interested in purchasing or using an EV. The office will provide “independent, non-sales advice and information on EVs, and support test driving experiences as well as commissioning research and assisting in policy development.”
All replacements for bus and commuter rail vehicles and carriages are to be low or zero-carbon by 2030, it says, and there is to be an increased rollout of rural public transport through Connecting Ireland.
The Government aims to increase the fleet of EVs and low-emitting vehicles (LEVs) on the road to 945,000, comprising of:
• 845,000 electric passenger cars
• 95,000 electric vans
• 3,500 low-emitting trucks
• 1,500 electric buses
• An expanded electrified rail network
The government plans to implement a “generous” regime of taxation incentives to promote the uptake of EVs, including a substantial vehicle registration tax (VRT) relief and benefit-in-kind (BIK) exemptions as well as a CO2 emissions-based VRT and a motor tax regime for private cars that imposes a higher tax liability on vehicles with higher emissions (such as petrol cars).
The plan also commits to examining the introduction of an emissions-based tax regime for light goods vehicles and gradually phasing out VAT rebates on commercial fuel use where electric alternatives exist.
The plan also commits to examining the gradual equalisation of the diesel and petrol excise rates.
An accelerated capital allowance regime will be launched to promote business investment in energy-efficient equipment and gas-powered commercial vehicles.
A reduction in emission of between 22% and 30% is outlined for the agriculture sector, which is substantially lower than what is being demanded of other sectors.
This reflects the extraordinary role agriculture plays in the Irish economy and also the delicate discussions which have been under way behind the scenes in recent months.
Forty separate action points are committed to over the lifetime of the Climate Action Plan to help deliver that level of reduction in emissions.
In relation to the size of the national herd, the report states policies that seek to reduce emissions in the agriculture sector must recognise the direct correlation between the animal numbers, production and GHG emissions.
Efficiencies and better technologies can effectively be cancelled out by growing emissions from herd size and/or make-up. The development of plans to manage the sustainable environmental footprint of the beef and dairy sectors will be central to the achievement of our climate targets.
The report says that agricultural emissions decreased by 4% in 2019 largely due to a decrease in fertiliser use (-10.1%) and liming (-25.4%).
However, it warns that if recent trends continue, with dairy herds increasing, there is a risk that emissions will grow as abatement and efficiency efforts are outstripped by herd growth, the report states.
It says the number of dairy herds carrying out milk recording will increase from 50% to 90%, and increase suckler beef herd weight recording from 30% to 70%.
It seeks to reduce crude protein content of livestock feeding stuffs to minimise nitrous oxide and ammonia loss, while utilising feed additives during housing period.
The plan also calls for the reduction of the average age of slaughter of prime animals from 27 to 24 months by 2030.
A just transition commission will be established to support Government policy development in this area.
The report says all increases in carbon tax receipts amounting to €9.5bn out to 2030 are earmarked for targeted social protection measures, an expansion of retrofitting, particularly for social and low-income homes, and agri-environment projects.
“The Midlands region is the first in Ireland to directly experience the negative impacts of the transition away from fossil fuels, with the ending of peat extraction for power generation, and this plan sets out a just transition implementation plan for this region,” the report states.
The plan seeks to reduce food waste by 50% and will ensure all plastic packaging is reusable or recyclable by 2030.
The Government says it will also increase our capacity to recycle packaging waste by 70%, and plastic package waste by 55%.
Cap21 says the public sector will le