Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said Ireland can become energy independent within a generation or less and that this generation should be the one that turns the tide on climate change and biodiversity loss.
Launching the Government’s updated national Climate Action Plan today, Mr Varadkar said we must prepare ourselves for the adverse effects of climate change.
He said this plan charts the way forward and will guide efforts across Government over the coming years.
Measures announced today include:
-Enough renewable electricity to power every home and business in the country by 2030
-70% of people in rural Ireland to have buses that go three times a day to the nearest town
-500,000 homes retrofitted to BER B2 to make them warmer
-One in three private cars on our roads to be electric by 2030
-Walking, cycling and public transport to account for 50% of all daily trips
-Tillage farming to cover up to 400,000 hectares by 2030
The plan also includes a climate action roadmap for every sector of the economy consistent with the legally binding target of a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Mr Varadkar said Ireland finds itself at a “moment of real opportunity for our country and for the planet”.
He said climate change is “the most pressing long term global challenge of our time” and Ireland is facing up to that challenge.
“We should not see climate action as an obligation or a burden. We should embrace it as an opportunity,” the Taoiseach said.
“It’s about warmer homes, cleaner air, fewer journeys, less time commuting, more remote and home working, more jobs and regional development.
“We should be the generation that turns the tide on climate change and biodiversity loss, and leaves the planet to the next generation in a better condition than we inherited it.
“Within a generation, Ireland can become energy independent by harnessing our untapped renewable energy resources.
“We can reap the rewards for our people that come with it – greater energy security, stable prices, new industries producing green fertilisers and green hydrogen, more jobs and regional development.”
Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications and Transport Eamon Ryan said the biggest challenge over the coming decade is what Ireland does collectively as a country to tackle climate change.
He said Ireland is facing three ecological crises – climate, biodiversity loss and pollution – and there must be a dramatic shift.
“But we can and will be good at this. Our potential to be climate leaders is huge and now we need to ramp up our ambition.”
Minister Ryan said that to “stay ahead of the climate curve”, Ireland must implement its plans “urgently”.
He said it is the responsibility of ministers, key economic sectors and industries to demonstrate that they are “on a clear path” to halve emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050.
He described the area of transport as probably “the most challenging” and warned that Ireland must now pivot, which will see the whole state go in a different direction towards sustainable mobile transport systems.
This, he said, will avoid the need for unnecessary transport, which is the first step in the right direction.
He said the shift to active travel and public transport to account for half of all journeys will bring huge improvements for everyone, but this will require a threefold increase in the provision of public transport services.
Tánaiste Micheál Martin described the plan as a blue print for radical change which will ensure a successful and sustainable future.
He said the Government will “continue to provide strong leadership” and ministers now have a legal responsibility to ensure that each sector is equipped and supported to achieve the emissions reductions demanded of them.
“Achieving our objectives on climate change is a national endeavour that will require a positive, sustained engagement from people across all communities,” he said.
“Government will play its full part but no sector is, or can be, unaffected by this shared, all-encompassing transition that we have embarked upon.”
Meanwhile, the Irish Farmers Association said further engagement with farmers is needed to ensure emissions can be reduced while facilitating the sustainable development of Irish farming.
“The world needs more food and Irish farmers are well placed to produce food in an environmentally efficient manner,” said IFA president Tim Cullina.
“We are committed to reducing emissions, but it cannot be at the expense of farmers livelihoods or by reducing output.”
Mr Cullinan said the debate must be about reducing emissions and not cattle numbers.
“The Government could do real damage to our sector to meet a short-term target when technological advancements could well help us achieve our 2030 targets…and it needs to invest in research and development to activate these technologies,” he said.
The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association said the Climate Action plan elevates “the marginal over the substantial”.
ICMSA President Pat McCormack said farmers attempts to get to grips with where they need to get to in emissions reductions is hindered by government failure to set out the nature of the task and denial of the funding that would be required.
“We have a continuous stream of policy that keeps doubling down on a relatively insignificant organics sector while completely ignoring the live stock sector, most specifically the family farm dairy sector, without which it will be simply impossible to get the numbers and momentum required to make this transition work,” he said.
“The plan actually states the need to put production diversification options for livestock farmers but then we see nothing and are offered nothing.
“If the Government wants these changes then it is up to it to identify the areas that require meaningful change and then fund those farmers who wish to make those changes.”
Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association said the plan is “long on aspiration and short on specific funding strategies”.
Last July, the Government set out details of extremely challenging and legally binding greenhouse gas reductions targets for every sector by 2030.
Emissions from electricity, for instance, are to be cut by 75%; transport by 50%; residential buildings by 40%; and agriculture by 25%.
But there was a lack of detail and no clear roadmap for how these targets would be achieved.
The updated Climate Action Plan will provide at least some more clarity.