Coalition forced to adopt new measures to close emissions gap and avoid fine costing billions

Rail freight, heat pumps, low-carbon agricultural feed and grid investment among measures agreed

The Government has been forced to adopt a series of measures to address an emissions gap totalling 26 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent to ensure it has a prospect of meeting its legally binding climate targets in the 2026-2030 period.

The measures have been included in the 2024 climate action plan which was adopted by Cabinet on Tuesday.

The latest estimate on “compliance costs” facing Ireland for failing to meet 2030 targets was between €3 billion and €8 billion — depending on the price of carbon.

The main additional measures include the roll-out of increased rail freight linked into ports, scaling up deployment of heat pumps in buildings, developing green hydrogen capacity, increased use of low-carbon feeds in agriculture, investment in additional electricity interconnectors between Ireland and other countries, and increasing availability of “long duration battery storage” in combination with wind and solar energy feeding into the grid.


The use of carbon capture and storage technology in cement manufacturing and incineration was going to be adopted with the ability to reduce emissions by 500,000 tonnes of CO2. These measures would be “challenging but do-able”, said Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan.

The climate plan went out for public consultation in January, while the final version does not include a diversification scheme for farmers which had been proposed by the industry through the Government-appointed Food Vision Dairy Group. It was envisaged that this would have included support for a cow cull but the scheme was rejected by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue as it was deemed “hard to deliver”, Mr Ryan said.

Some additional measures, which have yet to be factored into verifiable emissions reductions, include a national biomethane strategy and legislation to allow the roll-out of district heating schemes, which will go before Government shortly. Dublin City Council is also about to sign a contract with a partner for the latter, which will be concentrated in Dublin’s docklands initially, and take excess heat from the Covanta waste to energy incinerator in Ringsend and pipe it to nearby housing.

These measures in combination with actions in the climate plan are projected to deliver 42 per cent of emission reductions by 2030. To reach Ireland’s target of a 51 per cent cut, Government-appointed taskforces on transport and sustainable mobility, heat and the built environment and agriculture would “identify specific measures to further close the gap”.

Mr Ryan said the reality of failure to reach carbon budget targets of a 4.8 per cent reduction of emissions annually in the 2021-2015 period had to be faced up to, though significant improvement during 2023 of 5 per cent was likely to be confirmed.

With updated emissions projections due from the EPA in coming weeks, their most recent inventory figures show that Ireland’s emissions fell by just under 2 per cent between 2021 and 2022 — with reductions across the agriculture, industry, energy and residential sectors — at a time when the economy and population were increasing.

Ireland’s revised national and energy climate plan, setting out the country’s revised “national declared contribution” to decarbonising the EU, is due to go before the Cabinet next week, while Mr Ryan confirmed he will also be outlining the latest scientific assessment of “climate tipping points” that are a particular threat the country.

“This is the decade of climate action; the choice to remain as we are is not available. Tipping points, such as the loss of ice sheets, the shutdown of ocean currents, and a warmer and wetter Irish climate point to severe regional and global risks,” Mr Ryan said.

Delivering on the complete range of targets “represents the lowest cost route for society in the long run. What we need now ... is decisive delivery of the actions outlined in [the] climate action plan, and renewed ambition on the part of Government and society as a whole”, he added.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

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