State must rectify climate planning weaknesses, say NGOs, after failure to present adequate strategy

Draft national energy and climate plan is ‘piecemeal, incomplete and dated’, says coalition of environmental groups

The Government must rectify glaring weaknesses in its climate planning, according a coalition of environmental groups, as it has failed to present a definitive strategy for reaching Ireland’s crucial 2030 targets or establish a roadmap for 2050 ambitions.

Responding to a damning assessment by the EU Commission’s of Ireland’s draft national energy and climate plan (NECP), the groups said it had been shown to be “piecemeal, incomplete and dated”.

NECPs are legally required by the Commission, and must outline objectives, targets, policies and measures to manage a green energy transition while addressing climate change.

In its evaluation, the Commission spells out targets unlikely to be met. On energy security, it says “fossil fuels comprise a very significant share of Ireland’s energy mix and domestic extraction is decreasing, resulting in a high dependence on energy imports from third countries, with few detailed measures in the plan, eg to reduce gas demand”.


On €3 billion spent annually on fossil fuel subsidies, it says no date, timeline or commitment for phase out is in the plan.

Ireland’s agricultural lands, forestry and peatlands are producing emissions rather than capturing and storing carbon, it finds.

It confirms progress towards an 80 per cent share of renewable electricity generation by 2030, on addressing energy poverty and sustainable transport.

In a letter to the Minister for Climate and Energy Eamon Ryan this week, the NGOs outline failings in the NECP.

Oisín Coghlan of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition said: “The revision and update of Ireland’s NECP is an opportunity for substantial reforms to meet our climate goals while planning for the societal impact of the energy transition.”

“By not fully grasping the opportunity this process provides, the Government is missing out on the chance to align domestic policy with our climate targets, plan for the societal impacts of our energy transition and build social acceptance of climate and energy policies,” he added.

Irish Environmental Network chief executive Karen Ciesielski said: “This is far more than a ‘tick-box’ exercise. Ireland has been consistently late in meeting its EU obligations for submitting crucial climate plans.”

This had frustrated public participation in decision-making on climate issues, delayed progress on meeting national targets and undermined the EU-wide process of assessing collective progress towards net-zero emissions, she added. The Government missed an opportunity “to be honest with the public about the choices that need to be made to meet Ireland’s climate and energy targets”.

Environmental Justice Network Ireland (EJNI), Community Law and Mediation, Friends of the Earth and academics specialising in climate governance have released analysis of the NECP. It highlights “the absence of updated emission sectoral pathways, inadequate public participation processes, and failure to incorporate the impacts of policies outlined in the Climate Action Plan 2024″, which were red-flagged in the EU Commission’s recent assessment.

It calls for the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) to publish missing data on emissions projections, scenarios, pathways and carbon budgets “to show a transparently quantified roadmap that can be meaningfully assessed against Ireland’s declared national and EU targets”.

Dr Ciara Brennan of EJNI said: “We are now being asked to comment on a plan without actually being told what the plan is. The Government must ensure citizens have all the information they need to be able to properly scrutinise the plan ... and, if the information is not there, to explain why.”

A DECC spokeswoman said the Commission’s feedback “will be assessed and reflected in the final version”. A stakeholder consultation is open for submissions until March 7th and would also be reflected in the completed plan.

Recent upward revision of EU targets, in line with Europe’s response to Russia’s war against Ukraine and the energy crisis, meant DECC and agencies responsible for modelling, were unable to fully assess the impacts of changes to allow for their inclusion in the draft submitted to the Commission last year, she added.

“However, there are positive indications Ireland is making progress across a range of areas, including emissions reductions, renewable energy capacity and deployment and interconnection ... This work is ongoing and will be available for the final version of the NECP,” she added.

It is understood updated policies and targets contained in the Government’s 2024 climate action plan will be incorporated into the NECP, which is due to be submitted in June 2024

Last week, the Climate Change Advisory Council warned Ireland will not meet its carbon budget targets up to 2030, unless the Government redoubles efforts to immediately tackle climate change.

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Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times