Carbon cuts will mean major changes to the way we live

The latest report on Ireland’s climate challenge points to big changes for households

The impact of the new climate change targets on households might be difficult to pin down exactly – but they will be enormous.

By 2030, on the recommendations of the Climate Change Advisory Council, up to half of us may be driving electric cars, the use of home heating oil will be almost phased out and there will be huge changes in many sectors where people work – notably farming and food.

Carbon taxes will keep rising.

Here are some of the changes pointed to:

1 Houses: A key target is to use less energy heating homes and move away from using fossil fuels – notably home heating oil – to using electricity. The report points to the need to retrofit 600,000 houses between now and 2030 – a large chunk of the older, less energy-efficient housing stock.


Elsewhere, homeowners will be encouraged to move away from boilers towards heat pumps, with the use of home-heating oil targeted to fall by up to 80 per cent by 2030 – and the complete removal by then of burning coal and peat to heat homes. The report also refers to the inappropriate burning of wood as a contributor to emissions.

Making home heating oil, coal and peat more expensive through higher carbon taxes will be part of the strategy. The targets would require households to spend €1.2 billion-€1.9 billion per year annually on retrofitting. While there would be savings on energy bills , the report warns that the length of the pay-back time on the major retrofitting investment means State grants will need to cover most of the cost if the target is to be met.

2 Cars: By 2030 the council says we will need up to 1½ million electric vehicles on the road – and for all new cars being purchased before then to be electric.

While the target level could be lower depending on how the emission targets are broken down between sectors , it is still likely to be more than the 900,000 set in current Government targets. The council says that to achieve the targets, a scrappage scheme for up to 800,000 old petrol and diesel cars may be needed running up to 2030, as well as major investment in public transport.

3 Farms and food: Agriculture and food are key areas pointed to for action, with major implications for farmers and those working in the sector, the extent of which will depend on where exactly the Government sets the targets for the sector.

Output from the sector could fall 7-19 per cent, the council says – depending on where the targets are set – meaning declines in the size of the dairy and beef herd. This has big implications for farm incomes, even if some alternative income sources are found.

4 Jobs: There are major winners and losers in terms of jobs. In agriculture and food – the sector most exposed – 6,000-13,000 jobs could be lost if a 20 per cent emissions cut is targeted for this sector, or 21,000-45,000 if a 40 per cent reduction is targeted.

Jobs attached to fossil fuels are also exposed. On the plus side, the council estimates there could be up to 40,000 jobs to retrofit houses and another 33,000 if the materials were made in Ireland, as well as thousands of jobs in developing wind energy infrastructure.

5. Tax and spending: The council put an estimate of €5 billion per annum on the amount of investment needed, notably in energy, much of which will have to come from the State. There will be other costs in protecting those who lose out.

The choice facing the Government will be whether to borrow more, spend less somewhere else, or raise taxes to pay for this. It is a major issue in the public finances.