The Government’s declared targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions across different industries by 2030 “are problematic for a number of reasons”, the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) has warned.
The independent body set up to advise the Government said the announced targets “only amount to a reduction of 43 per cent”.
This was “not consistent” with objectives in the Government’s own legislation, namely the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act, the body said.
It also criticised the absence of targets for the land-use sector — including forestry, wetlands and bogs — which “is a source of emissions and needs to be addressed urgently”.
There was also a lack of clarity on how targets fit in with carbon budgets, creating “considerable uncertainty” over how they will be achieved, it said.
In a statement, CCAC chairwoman Marie Donnelly said the targets were “a useful starting point” but “will need to be revised upwards and monitored closely in the light of experience”.
“The Climate Action Plan 2023, due later this year, will need to set out the precise actions and steps that will need to be followed in order to align with the ambition of the Carbon Budgets which were adopted by the Oireachtas in April,” she added.
Ms Donnelly said the war in Ukraine has exposed a reliance on fossil fuels that needed to be reduced and ultimately eliminated.
This was “particularly urgent and important for vulnerable households,” she added.
The CCAC has called for the Government to implement measures “better targeted at those in challenging circumstances, in fuel poverty and with low incomes” with support for green home-heating schemes for those on fuel allowance or relying on coal and turf.
The president of the Irish Farmers Association said common sense needs to prevail and that there needs to be credibility and stability in any plans to reduce emissions.
The organisation’s members will engage in the process, Tim Cullinan told Newstalk Breakfast, adding there was a lot of worry on the ground. The safeguarding of food production needed to be considered, he said.
“Will we have enough by the end of the year? We have to ensure there is adequate supply, that we don’t have a humanitarian crisis on our doorstep.”
On the same programme, Cara Augustenborg, professor of Environmental Policy at University College Dublin and a member of the Climate Advisory Council, said although she was relieved a deal had finally been agreed on emissions, science did not care about compromises.
The train had left the station — it was moving very slowly and was not going to reach its destination on time, she warned. “This deal needs revision. There is a need to go back and revise the targets upwards”.
Mr Cullinan said farmers were working very hard to tackle emissions but that there needed to be a recognition this was a huge challenge. Both Ministers Charlie McConalogue and Eamon Ryan had previously mentioned funding, but there had been no mention of that on Thursday, she said.
The issue of emission reductions on farms being credited to other sectors was raised again by Mr Cullinan. A roadmap had been set out by Teagasc, but there still needed to be assessments, he said. Mr Cullinan denied farmers were “getting off lightly” in comparison to other sectors. People were confused and concerned, he said.
Despite the critical assessments of others, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan expressed confidence that Green Party members will support the Government’s emissions cuts plan. However, he also acknowledged that the emission targets will have to be revised upwards in the future, particularly in relation to land use.
There was a lot more work to be done on the plan, he told RTÉ radio’s Today show. He also agreed with comments by Ms Donnelly regarding the work needing to be done in the next 18 months.
The Government will heed and follow the advisory council’s advice, he said. The Government was on the right path. There was “justice” in the targets proposed because everyone was involved. “We need to pick up our speed, pick up our steps, start to jog, start to run, start to sprint”.
The first step was about protecting and restoring nature as well as addressing climate change, but this would not work without a strong economy.
“It has to be good for our people. It has to give us protection against the faster high fossil fuel prices and the insecurity of relying on imported energy”.
It took time to change farming and land use, he said. “It takes time to plant a forest. It takes time to change a farm. It will take us time to bring in a whole new generation of young people which we want to go into farming as well as those within it at the moment.
“But we want to create a system where we have a whole new generation of people who are the frontline defenders of nature as well as producers of high-quality food.”
Later, on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show, Mr Ryan said “this is a complex jigsaw scientifically, especially how we manage land”.
It was important not to have a blame game so that the actions that needed to be taken could commence, he said. The reality was that everybody needed to act now, it was not just about protecting the environment, it was about becoming self-sufficient when it comes to energy because Putin was using energy as a weapon of war.
Ireland needed to develop its own power sources so that the country was not held hostage by other countries. Changes should not be viewed as a punishment, they were good for society and would create jobs.