Climate Change National Mitigation Plan

Ireland’s first statutory climate change National Mitigation Plan was published by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment in recent weeks. In launching the plan, Minister Denis Naughten said the Plan represents a first step in a 'whole-of-Government' approach to addressing Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions. Critics have dubbed it an “action promise” rather than an “action plan”.

The National Mitigation Plan provides a robust framework for action and accountability for progress as follows:

  • 106 distinct actions are included in the final Plan to be implemented across Government in order to advance the national transition agenda;
  • robust implementation and oversight through a National Mitigation Plan High Level Steering Group which will be chaired by Minister Naughten;
  • accountability for progress through the statutory Annual Transition Statement delivered to the Oireachtas which will incorporate a National Mitigation Plan Progress Report;
  • a commitment to more integration of climate change into the annual estimates processes and into the Government's Public Spending Code; and
  • the Climate Change Advisory Council to review annual progress in line with its statutory mandate.

The National Mitigation Plan lists 60 specific measures already in place in the four sectors concerned to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Where available, the Plan also provides information on the costs and emissions reduction impact of individual measures. These measures include:

  • Emissions Trading Scheme;
  • Carbon tax;
  • Renewable electricity support schemes;
  • Renewable energy prototype development funding;
  • Financial supports, through SEAI, for housing energy efficiency improvements;
  • Social housing energy efficiency upgrades;
  • Near Zero Energy building standards;
  • Building Energy Rating Certificates;
  • SEAI Large Industry Energy Network and SME Support schemes;
  • Public Sector Energy Efficiency Strategy;
  • Public transport investments;
  • Smarter Travel Initiative;
  • Tax and financial incentives for low emissions vehicles;
  • Biofuels Obligation Scheme;
  • Rural Development Programme, including Beef Data and Genomics Programme, the Knowledge Transfer Programme, GLAS (Green, Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme) and Organic Farming Scheme; and
  • Forestry Programme.

The Plan also lists 17 separate proposals for new measures that are under development by Government, including:

  • A revised Renewable Electricity Support Scheme;
  • Increased electricity connectivity;
  • Future role of Moneypoint;
  • Renewable heat incentive;
  • Smart metering;
  • Minimal thermal standards in properties;
  • Voluntary Housing Association upgrades;
  • Further incentives for low emission vehicles;
  • Further public transport investment;
  • Supports and incentives to modal shift;
  • Taxation policy development;
  • Biofuels obligation scheme development;
  • Eco-driving;
  • National policy on parking;
  • Reduction of top speed limits on motorways; and
  • Forest cover expansion post-2020.

The plan has fallen short of the expectations of some. Friends of the Earth has expressed its disappointment that the Government's Plan doesn't do enough to reduce Ireland's climate-changing pollution. Commenting, Friends of the Earth Director, Oisin Coghlan said it was good to see Taoiseach Leo Varadkar state in his foreword that what we need a 'societal transformation', 'sustained policy change' and the resources to back that up. But then the document just doesn't commit to enough policy change. He also said "The document is honest about the scale of the challenge we face and our lack of progress so far, but it simply doesn't commit to enough new actions to reduce pollution.”

 

An article published in The Guardian newspaper said of the plan that “looks can be deceiving. The promised “fundamental societal transformation” turns out to be a soothing combination of words entirely lacking in substance. The climate action minister, Denis Naughten, glossed over the gaping holes and staggering lack of ambition in the NMP by declaring it a “living document”, with the vague understanding that it will, zombie-like, spring to life at some point closer to 2050. The article went on to state that Minister Naughten stressed Ireland “was “playing catch-up” and perhaps shouldn’t be judged too harshly. Naughten is adamant that the government doesn’t want to be prescriptive on how to hit our targets. But in practice, this translates into ducking the tough but necessary near-term decisions.”

The National Mitigation Plan is available for download at: http://www.dccae.gov.ie/documents/National%20Mitigation%20Plan%202017.pdf

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