The climate action plan pinpoints hopes for greener buildings, cleaner transport and lots more wind – but campaigners say implementation is key

IRELAND needs to double the amount of electricity generated by onshore wind farms, install eight times more solar power and increase home retrofits by 50 times to meet climate targets by the end of the decade.

The challenge ahead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is spelled out in the revised climate action plan, which warns that “a transformation of this scale and speed has seldom, if ever, been seen before”.

The new plan, the third version since the first was first published in 2019, comes as emissions are still rising while requirements to reduce them have become a legal obligation for government and individual ministers.

By 2030 they are set to drop by 51 percent – a task spread across six different sectors, each with different reduction targets, currently ranging from 25 percent for agriculture to 75 percent for energy.

Much of the hope lies in increasing the amount of electricity from renewable sources, which the plan says will require a “massive and rapid expansion of renewable generation capacity.”

Transport is expected to achieve a 50 percent emissions reduction through a carrot-and-stick combination of improved public transit and cycling and walking infrastructure, along with restrictions on parking in urban areas.

Building standards need to be raised from “nearly zero emissions” to “zero emissions” and the start of a phased phase-out of new oil and gas boilers is expected to be confirmed in the coming months.

Industry is faced with new requirements to consider its impact on climate when being considered for government support, and a push must be made to find renewable heat sources for manufacturing processes and lower the carbon content of cement.

Farmers will be incentivized to shift away from beef and dairy to soil and forestry, reduce emissions-laden fertilizer use, and switch to anaerobic digestion—the use of agricultural waste to produce biomethane gas.

Tighter monitoring of climate progress within government and individual departments is also promised, with strengthening of the interdepartmental Climate Action Delivery Board and closer monitoring by the Department of the Taoiseach.

A Just Transition Commission is to be set up in 2023 to advise the government on how climate protection policy can be implemented fairly and how those negatively affected can best be supported.

“Climate change is the most pressing long-term global challenge of our time and Ireland is addressing it,” said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Friends of Earth said proof of this claim was needed. Chief Executive Oisín Coghlan said the plan was welcome but needed to see a “laser-like focus on implementation” next year.

“Unless Irish emissions fall quickly in 2023, this government’s carefully built climate credibility will crumble,” he said

Some early and obvious problems with the plan emerged. The lack of a target for the land use sector has been highlighted by the Climate Change Advisory Council, along with a gap in the calculations that means all planned emissions reductions combined miss the 2026-2030 target by five million tonnes per year.

“The remaining gap in unallocated emissions reductions is a significant concern,” said Council Member Professor Peter Thorne.

“It is imperative that a roadmap to close this gap is swiftly finalized to provide reassurance to sectors, industry and society on how we will achieve our ambitions.”

Council chair Marie Donnelly said the council will need time to analyze the plan in detail, but she said there was an urgency to prioritize fast-acting emissions reduction measures.

Some of the measures are supported by new regulations, but many of them are intended to be achieved through incentives and encouragement.

Environment and Climate Protection Minister Eamon Ryan defended the approach.

“That’s not going to work if we blame and shame and point the finger,” he said.

However, the Social Democrats there needed much more evidence that the plan could be implemented.

Party climate spokeswoman Jennifer Whitmore said the current approach “can be reduced to a wing and a prayer”.

Farming organizations, meanwhile, complained that the plan lacked detail.

“The plan actually envisages the need to offer ‘production diversification options for ranchers,’ but then we see nothing and are not offered anything,” said ICMSA President Pat McCormack. The climate action plan pinpoints hopes for greener buildings, cleaner transport and lots more wind – but campaigners say implementation is key

Fry Electronics Team

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