Ireland plans net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

18 Jun 19

Ireland has become the latest European country to put forward ambitious proposals to tackle climate change.

The country’s government has set out 180 measures to end state, businesses, agricultural and household dependence on fossil fuels.

Promising to decouple emissions growth from economic growth, taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the plan represents “the sum of our hopes for the future”.

The measures – set out in a report published on Monday – establish a path for Ireland to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

They envisage a politically risky increase in carbon taxes, retro-fitting homes, putting a million electric vehicles on the road, and initiatives to change the behaviour of institutions, companies and citizens.

“We are going to change how electricity is produced and consumed, how our homes and workplaces are heated, the way we travel, the types of vehicles we purchase, and how food is produced,” Varadkar said.

Ireland has a poor record on meeting European Union carbon emission targets and faces fines of €250m for missing 2020 targets on reducing emissions and adopting renewable energy.

The Climate Action Plan to Tackle Climate Breakdown notes that the country is set to miss agreed targets for the period 2013 to 2020 for renewables by about one eighth and for cumulative emissions by 5%.

Moreover, recent growth in emissions – particularly from industry, agriculture and transport – put the country on course to be more than 25% off target for 2021–2030.

The make-up of greenhouse gas emissions differs in Ireland from most other European countries because of its meat and dairy industries, with agriculture responsible for up 32% of emissions compared to just 11% in the rest of Europe.

Climate action minister Richard Bruton said the proposals put Ireland on course for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

This will involve increasing carbon taxes from €20 to €80 per tonne by 2030 – a politically risky exercise, but one that responds to a surge in support for Ireland’s Green party.

The plans also commit Ireland to meeting 2030 EU goals, meaning a cut in emissions from 60 million to 33 million tonnes, by planting more trees and buying carbon credits from other countries.

  • Gavin O'Toole, expert on Latin America
    Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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