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What Ireland's Missed Climate Targets Means

Even a pandemic couldn’t stop Ireland’s rising carbon emissions.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Ireland will fail to meet its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. This is already a significant blow for the country’s renewable journey and doesn’t bode well for a smooth transition to reach a 51% emissions reduction by 2030. While the current target is residential farming, businesses will soon be examined.

Despite spending most of the year under Covid-related movement restrictions and work-from-home mandates, Ireland failed to keep its emissions numbers down in 2020. In their Greenhouse Gas projections for the period 2020-2040, the EPA said that Ireland exceeded its 2013-2020 EU Effort Sharing Decision target by 12.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. The EPA has previously warned of Ireland is unlikely to achieve the 2020 emissions targets, such as in 2018, when Ireland’s overall emissions dropped by just 0.2%. Even with an advanced warning, they still fell short in climate action initiatives, despite the government spending plenty of time drafting legislation for climate laws.

However, despite missing these targets, the EPA noted that the current EU 2021-2030 commitments can still be met with full implementation of the measures in the climate action plan. Their projections indicate that under the “best-case scenario”. With the 2019 Climate Action Plan fully implemented, Ireland’s 2030 emissions will be 24% lower than 2018 levels, significantly lower than what is expected in the coming decade. The plan has called for 51% emissions reduction, 70% of electricity generated by renewables, and one million electric vehicles on the road, all by 2030. This means that if Ireland is to reach these targets, which they are already behind schedule on, this decade will need to bring major developments and advances to achieve this figure. 

EPA Director-General Laura Burke said “for Ireland to meet the more ambitious targets as presented in the European Climate Law and Ireland’s Climate Bill, and to transform to a climate-resilient, biodiversity-rich and climate neutral economy by 2050, there needs to be a significant and immediate increase in the scale and pace of greenhouse gas emission reductions.” The EPA further stressed the importance of energy in achieving Ireland's emissions goals, where if renewable energy provided 70% of electricity generated, it would lead to a projected 25% reduction in emissions from the energy industry. 

What does this mean for you? Long answer short: more taxes. The government has already implemented a carbon tax increase on over 600,000 households in the country to fund renewable energy projects. However, there still is some debate as to whether a carbon tax is effective at reducing CO2 emissions by households, given people still need to heat their homes and use energy for the most basic of day-to-day tasks. In response, the government plans to assist in retrofitting 500,000 homes for improved energy efficiency in the coming decade. So far this tax has raised €4 billion but with targets already falling short, many will be asking what environmental initiatives have been achieved since the tax was introduced. 

With the increase in taxes on households, businesses will be next. While individual households are investing in energy-efficient homes and changing habits, it is important to look at what businesses can do to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Currently, the non-farming business sector accounts for just under a quarter of the country's emissions. This sector should be much more responsive to price signals than households. For businesses, there is an EU-wide emissions trading system where companies have to buy pollution permits to cover their activities. To date, this system has not worked as expected, resulting in a much lower price for carbon and too weak an incentive for businesses to switch to renewables.

Currently, much of the high emitting manufacturing sector is not affected by the carbon tax. However, this will certainly change as the government is already behind and will have to act quickly to get back on track.  This means that if your business makes the transition into renewable energy now before taxes come into play, it can save your business thousands of euros. Get in touch to make the switch today