Ryan needs corrective measures to close “alarming” gap between EPA’s emissions projection and legal target, says campaigners

— Transport emissions are only projected to fall by half of the target.
— Government’s “aspirations are not backed up with concrete action plans,” group says.

— Opposition needs to hold Government to account, says Friends of the Earth.

Climate action law obliges Minister Eamon Ryan to present corrective measures to the Oireachtas Committee on Climate that would close the emissions gap after the EPA research found that Ireland would fail even to reach a 30% carbon emissions reduction by 2030 when the target is 51% reduction compared to 2018.

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The EPA said last night that almost all sectors are “on a trajectory to exceed their national sectoral emissions ceilings for 2025 and 2030, including Agriculture, Electricity and Transport.”

The EPA published a detailed report on the issue, Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Projections 2023-2050.

On transport, a summary of the EPA assessment said: “Emissions from the sector are projected to reduce by 26% over the period 2022 to 2030 if the measures set out in plans and policies are implemented. These include over 940,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030, increased biofuel blend rates and measures to support more sustainable transport.”

It added: “Road freight is projected to be the biggest source of road transport greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.”

Commenting on the news this morning, Brian Caulfield, a Professor in transportation at Trinity College Dublin, said: “The analysis from the EPA today shows that even with additional measure we are predicted to hit a 26% reduction in transport emissions — not the 50% set out in the carbon budgets. Also it is not certain we will even reach the targets of the additional measures.”

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

Coghlan said that Ireland’s climate law is “very clear what happens next” and that once the Climate Advisory Council has published its review and recommendations, Minister Ryan should present corrective measures to the Oireachtas Committee on Climate.

“The biggest problem seems 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,” he said. “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.”

He said that a silver lining is that the Government knows what to do, it just has to “get on with it faster.”

Coghlan said: “This is the litmus test for this Government’s commitment to climate action. They’ve adopted the legal framework, they’ve adopted many of the headline policies, but are they going to take the concrete actions needed to reduce emissions in line with the binding limits set by the Dáil?”

He added: “It’s also a test for all seven political parties that voted for the climate law and the binding national limits on polluting emissions, the Carbon Budgets. Will they hold the Government to account for the emissions gap, and crucially, will they present their own proposals to do things faster or to cut emissions differently? They have a responsibility to do that under the climate law, and, as citizens, we all have an interest in them doing that before the General Election.”

The EPA report outlined how the transport emissions counted are mainly from road use and that the main policy instruments for transport emissions are the electrification of the vehicle fleet, an increase in the mix of renewable fuels in petrol and diesel at the pumps and ‘avoid and shift’ measures as detailed in the Climate Action Plan 2024.

The electrification includes having 945,000 vehicles, including 845,000 private electric vehicles, by 2023. The number of new electric cars registered in 2023 was 22,789, up 45% since the previous year, but in the first few months of the year, sales of electric cars declined to around half of the level in the comparable months in 2023.

The EPA also said that its protected ‘with additional measures’ scenario also “includes a reduction in total vehicle kilometers to be achieved by behavioural and sustainable transport measures outlined in the Climate Action Plan 2024, such as a 50% increase in daily active travel journeys and a 130% increase in daily public transport journeys.”

But it notes: “…one of the modelled measures relating to fuel price increase as part of this behavioural change approach has no supporting policy and is not included in the EPA projections.”

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