COMPANIES, households and farmers can be told that they need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions even more than previously thought.
New scientific data is being compiled for the government, which fears emissions from devastated peatlands, deforested forests and disturbed agricultural soils are higher than allowable.
If that is the case, further emission cuts will be required in other sectors.
The issue was raised in the Environment and Climate Change Committee, where TDs and Senators told Environment Secretary Eamon Ryan they were concerned about how sectoral emissions caps, set only in July, were being drafted.
“If, as it appears, the land use baseline is far more challenging than we thought, will this mean that targets in other sectors will have to be revised?” asked Fine Gael’s Richard Bruton at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Is there a risk that difficulties in the land use sector would require higher targets in other areas?”
The minister replied that “in terms of further adjustments, potentially any industry could play a role”.
Mr Ryan said a land use study currently underway will be completed within 18 months and provide a clearer picture of the state of the country’s landscapes.
The report will show what type of country acts as a carbon sink, capturing and containing emissions, and which contribute to total national emissions.
In the longer term, it will help guide policy to transform the latter into the former.
In the meantime, however, the government is struggling to bring the situation into line with the carbon budgets and sectoral emissions caps (SECs) it set just months ago.
Under these agreements, each sector of society and economy has been allocated a limited tonnage of emissions that it can produce by 2030.
These tonnages together must not exceed the national CO2 budget.
But unidentified savings or “unattributed emissions” were included in the calculations, assuming new technologies, rapid peatland rewetting, increased afforestation, or other measures would emerge to offset emissions from other sectors.
However, earlier this year the Climate Change Advisory Council, independent advisers to the government, presented new scientific data that revealed flaws in the rationale for relying on land to capture emissions.
Defending his decision to move forward with the SECs in their current form, Mr Ryan said the information had come late in the day in terms of budget and cap preparation and required more detailed analysis, which the land use study would provide.
Independent Senator Alice Mary Higgins pointed out that four climate scientists and legal experts, including some involved in the Climate Case’s landmark victory in the Supreme Court, had questioned the legality of the SECs.
Mr Ryan said he would reply this week to the four who wrote to him early last month to say he believed there was enough flexibility under the Climate Act to do so.
He confirmed to Social Democrat TD Jennifer Whitmore that the government’s legal adviser, the Attorney General, had been consulted on the matter.
It came as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the effects of climate change were “entering uncharted territory of destruction” as he released a multi-organization scientific report reviewing the latest research on the subject.
The report, led by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), warned that the world is “going in the wrong direction” on climate change.
As greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere continue to rise and world leaders fail to implement strategies to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, the Earth is moving closer to dangerous climate tipping points, the report says United in Science.
Extreme weather events are already occurring more frequently and more intensely.
“Heat waves in Europe. Colossal floods in Pakistan… The new scale of these disasters is not natural,” Guterres said in a video message.
Despite a drop in emissions during the coronavirus lockdown, planet-warming emissions have since risen above pre-pandemic levels. Preliminary data shows that global carbon emissions in the first half of this year were 1.2% higher than in the same period in 2019, the report said.
The past seven years have been the warmest on record.
The global average temperature has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average. And scientists predict that the annual average could be between 1.1°C and 1.7°C warmer by 2026 – meaning we could potentially exceed the 1.5°C warming threshold in the next five years.
By the end of the century, without aggressive climate action, global warming is estimated at 2.8°C.
But even with current warming, we could pass multiple climate tipping points.
Ocean currents, which carry heat from the tropics to the northern hemisphere, for example, are now slowing at their lowest rate in 1,000 years – threatening historic weather patterns, the report, which includes input from the UN Environment Program and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, says contains .
Almost half of the world’s population is considered particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change – floods, heat, drought, wildfires and storms.
By the 2050s, over 1.6 billion city dwellers will be sweating regularly from three-month average temperatures of at least 35 °C (95 °F).
To help communities cope, the WMO has pledged to put every person on earth under the protection of an early warning system within the next five years.
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/higher-emission-cuts-may-be-needed-as-new-data-shows-land-not-locking-away-carbon-41988369.html Higher emissions cuts may be needed as new data shows land does not sequester carbon