The Government on Wednesday night reported it did not implement more than half of the measures in its climate action plan during the second quarter of the year, as Ministers again failed to reach agreement on an emissions reduction target for the agriculture sector.
A progress report on the Climate Action Plan, noted at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, found that just 45 per cent of the 162 specific measures due to be taken in April, May and June were actually implemented.
The plan, published last year, detailed a range of environmental policies and measures required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Department of the Taoiseach tracks its progress and publishes quarterly reports, with the overall implementation rate of the measures now running at 71 per cent.
Reasons cited for the delay in implementing the measures included “lengthy stakeholder consultation and analysis; capacity and capability constraints related to skills, competing work priorities and resourcing; and desires for alignment with other measures to enhance effectiveness and impact”.
“Legislative delays were also prominent in Q2, along with issues arising from the technical complexity of climate action delivery and the layers of administrative clearance often required for measures to complete,” the Government said.
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‘Shoulders to wheel’
A spokesman for Green Party leader and Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan conceded that the result was “disappointing”, adding that it was hoped the rate of implementation would increase in the third quarter.
“It underlines the importance that we all put our shoulders to the wheel and get it done,” he told journalists at the weekly post-Cabinet briefing. “We need to get there faster.”
Officials and Ministers spent much of Wednesday locked in negotiations on reducing agriculture emissions after late-night talks on Tuesday failed to yield a deal. Officials said negotiations were continuing.
After pessimism earlier in the week, multiple sources involved in the talks reported that progress was being made and the sides were coming closer together. However, they cautioned that nothing final been agreed and that a deal was unlikely to be struck before Thursday.
A draft memo was being drawn up to be sent to the Coalition leaders, but no agreement on a figure for the emissions reduction for agriculture has been reached. Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue was said to be sticking to a target of a 24 per cent reduction, with Mr Ryan unwilling to come below 26 per cent.
A source said that if the deadlock continues, it would be deferred to Coalition leaders to decide. Government sources said one side would not “win” in the process and that stakeholders on both sides would likely be disappointed. Farming representatives have continued to pile pressure on Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs to support a lower target, while environmental groups and climate activists urged higher reductions from the agriculture sector, which is Ireland largest emitter of greenhouse gas.
A group of environmental NGOs said that a 22 per cent cut for agriculture would be “neither fair nor feasible, as it would mean a 68 per cent reduction in emissions across the rest of society”.
“Furthermore, it will lock in agricultural intensification and the associated negative impacts on water, air, nature and food security,” spokespeople for the Environmental Pillar, the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition and the Sustainable Water Network said in a statement.
Fianna Fáil backbencher Barry Cowen said it might “best for all concerned” if a decision was deferred until the autumn, but the Coalition leaders are said to be anxious to conclude a deal before the summer break.