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Ireland publishes a climate change action plan

Words: Roger Milne
Climate change

The Irish Government has published its long-awaited climate action plan. It is designed to set the country on a trajectory to achieve net zero-carbon emissions by 2050.

Ministers stressed the need to change the way homes are heated, how the country is powered and the way the population travels. Significantly, more tree-planting is in prospect.

The plan commits the government to establish a new microgeneration scheme, allowing homeowners to generate their own electricity and sell what they don’t use back to the national grid.

The plan includes major policy shifts to enable a rapid decarbonisation of the country within 12 years, including targets for putting nearly one million electric vehicles on Irish roads as well as the retrofitting of 500,000 homes to make them more energy-efficient in a move that will see 400,000 heat pumps installed.

By 2030, 70 per cent of power generation will be from renewable energy – more than double the current position.

More cycle paths and park-and-ride facilities are planned, as are car-free city and urban centres – a prospect that is already worrying retailers.

The strategy will see a system of five-year carbon budgets and sector targets, underpinned by a new Climate Action Act. All major government investments and decisions will be carbon-proofed, ministers stressed.

Opposition parties criticised aspects of the plan as weak on detail. Green Party leader Eamon Ryan was especially critical of the transport elements of the plan. The Greens also criticised the absence of any costing for many key measures such as afforestation, retrofitting homes and a modal shift in transport.

But some environmental campaigners welcomed the announcement. Friends of the Earth claimed it was the “the biggest innovation in Irish climate policy in 20 years”.

And Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “Our approach will be to nudge people and businesses to change behaviour and adapt new technologies through incentives, disincentives, regulations and information. Our objective, as we plan for the future, is to transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient society”.

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