Expansion of climate actions urgently needed with world warming ‘quicker than anticipated’, says Eamon Ryan

Minister for Climate says Ireland has to be ‘really strong’ to avoid ‘horrific eventuality’ of climate tipping points

Irish people have to face up to the reality that “we’re heading towards a 2.5 degree world that has huge risks attached to it”, Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan has warned.

Speaking after he briefed the Cabinet on the latest scientific evidence of global warming, Mr Ryan said trends were accelerating quicker than anticipated, and a risk of tipping points could not be ignored. He said “runaway climate change you can’t stop” posed particular risks for the country.

Melting polar ice sheets, decline of the Amazon rainforest and dramatic changes to sea currents in the Atlantic Ocean, which normally give Ireland its benign climate, were all interlinked and a consequence of human-induced carbon emissions, Mr Ryan said.

“They’re all connected. And we have to act fast. We have to go really strong to reduce emissions as part of our contribution to avoiding that horrific eventuality,” he said.


He acknowledged the latest Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) projections published on Tuesday showed Ireland was not on course to meet its carbon emissions reduction targets. “We have to go further. We have to do more. Absolutely true,” he said at a media briefing in Government Buildings

He highlighted, however, a range of additional measures that go beyond what the EPA had modelled in its latest projections up to 2030 and beyond based on Government actions and measures under the 2024 climate plan.

These included a plan for solar power in businesses and communities and farms “that can deliver the extra renewables to help us get back on track”. The Cabinet had also agreed a biomethane strategy that would benefit Irish farmers, which meant imports from Qatar or Russia could end. “We start using our own supplies, which lowers carbon and gives us more energy security,” he said.

The Cabinet also approved publication of the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) for consultation, in response to the tipping points memo. It focuses on the actions Ireland is taking to meet its EU 2030 targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions, renewable energy, energy efficiency and electricity interconnection, as mandated by EU regulations and directives.

It takes into account the EPA’s emissions projections, which show that Ireland is not on track to meet its emissions targets under EU “effort sharing” regulations.

However, it should be noted that the EPA projections do not immediately tell the full story, as sufficient data is not yet available to allow all actions in our Climate Action Plan to be modelled, the Minister said.

“Some of the actions which are not accounted for in the EPA’s projections, will be particularly impactful – particularly in key sectors such as electricity, industry and agriculture. If all of the unmodelled actions and, as yet, unallocated emissions savings in the climate action plan are included, then projected emissions reductions would be much closer to the our national climate target,” Mr Ryan said.

“Today’s projected pollution numbers from the EPA are alarming and very disappointing,” said Friends of the Earth chief executive Oisín Coghlan. “For the third year running the EPA says that planned Government action will cut emissions by less than 30 per cent by 2030 when the benchmark in the climate law is a 51 per cent reduction.

“The biggest problem seemed to be that some of the Government’s flagship policies are not backed up with detailed implementation plans so the EPA cannot include them in the figures. Examples include the demand management strategy for transport, the renewable heat policy for industry and the ambition to diversify agriculture away from over-reliance on beef and dairy. As yet, the EPA has judged that these aspirations are not backed up with concrete action plans to achieve them so they can’t count them yet,” Mr Coghlan said.

“One silver lining therefore is that the Government knows what it has to do, it just needs to get on with it faster,” he said.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

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