2022 was a significant year for climate-related policy in Ireland, with the approval for the first time of a carbon budget and sectoral emissions ceilings. The Climate Action Plan now promises further measures in 2023, although specific detail on implementation is awaited. Eoin Cassidy and Peter McLay review the latest developments in Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, which were announced in late 2022.
The Irish Government published its Climate Action Plan 2023 on 21 December 2022. Climate Action Plan 2023 is the second annual update to Ireland’s ongoing Climate Action Plan, which was first published in 2019.
This 2023 update is the first to be prepared under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 (the 2021 Act). It follows the introduction in 2022, of economy-wide carbon budgets and sectoral emissions ceilings.
The 2023 plan implements the carbon budgets and sectoral emission ceilings and sets a roadmap for taking decisive action to halve our emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.
The detailed implementation maps for the actions outlined in the 2023 plan, including timelines and responsible organisations, will be contained in a supplementary Annex of Actions scheduled to be published in “early 2023”.
Six vital high impact sectors
The Government has identified six “vital high impact sectors” as part of the plan. We list the six sectors below and highlight some of the headline policies for each.
Powering Renewables – 75% reduction in emissions by 2030
- Accelerating the delivery of onshore wind, offshore wind, and solar, while phasing out the use of coal and peat in electricity generation.
Building Better – 45% reduction in emissions from commercial/public buildings by 2030 and 40% reduction in emissions from residential buildings.
- Ramping up retrofitting to 120,000 dwellings to energy rating “BER B2” by 2025, jumping to 500,000 by 2030.
Travel – 50% reduction in emissions by 2030
- Reducing the total distance driven across all car journeys by 20% with walking, cycling and public transport to account for 50% of journeys and nearly 1 in 3 private cars to be an Electric Vehicle.
Family Farms – 25% reduction in emissions by 2030
- Significantly reducing the use of chemical nitrogen as a fertilizer.
Greening Business – 35% reduction in emissions by 2030
- Reducing fossil fuel use from 64% of final consumption (2021) to 45% by 2025 and further by 2030.
Land use – exact reduction target for this sector is yet to be determined
- Increasing annual afforestation rates to 8,000 hectares per annum from 2023 onwards.
State of play
The plan is the framework through which the Government intends to meet its emissions reductions targets, which are embodied in legislation. The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 requires Ireland to achieve a 51% reduction in emissions by 2030, relative to 2018 levels, and net-zero emissions by 2050. Ireland must also:
- Deliver annual climate action plans
- Implement a carbon budget programme, and
- Define sectoral emissions ceilings
Ireland's first carbon budget programme came into effect in April 2022. Sectoral emissions ceilings, which operate within the carbon budgets, were approved in July 2022.
A carbon budget represents the total amount of emissions, measured in tonnes of CO2 equivalent, that may be emitted by a country or region during a specific time period. Under the 2021 Act, the proposed carbon budgets must provide for a reduction of 51% in the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, relative to 2018. The 2021 Act sets Ireland on a pathway consistent with our 2050 target of delivering a sustainable economy and society where emissions are balanced or exceeded by the removal of GHGs. Following an extensive review and consultation process, the carbon budgets then came into effect on 6 April 2022 after they were approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas.
Sectoral emissions ceilings
The 2021 Act requires that ‘as soon as may be’ after the carbon budgets are approved, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications submits sectoral emissions ceilings to Government for approval. These ceilings represent the maximum amount of greenhouse gas emissions permitted within different sectors of the economy during a carbon budget period.
Following the approval of the carbon budgets, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications engaged with relevant Ministers, and their Departments and Agencies, to prepare sectoral emissions ceilings for Government review and approval. The ceilings were approved by the Government on 28 July 2022.
Progress in 2022
The 2023 plan acknowledges some of the progress Ireland has already made under the Climate Action Plan, for example:
- A record year for the connection of renewable electricity to the grid in 2022
- 1,836 MW of renewable generation successful in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) 2 auction, representing a nearly 20% increase on Ireland’s current renewable electricity generation capacity
Planning guidelines for Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure reviewed and guidance issued to Local Authorities
- Launch of the Phase 2 of the BusConnects Dublin Network Redesign
- Enactment of the Maritime Area Planning Act 2021 which underpins an entirely new marine planning system
- Continued investment in the Marine Research Programme to address climate change issues
Actions for 2023
The plan outlines dozens of actions for 2023. A sample of the actions outlined in the plan include:
- Establish a “Just Transition Commission” to advise the Government. The plan describes “just transition” as being based on recognising the transformational level of change required to meet the targets set put in the plan and “having a shared understanding that the transition is fair, and just, and that the costs are shared equitably.”
- Prepare a new draft Wind Energy Development Guidelines to guide the permitting of onshore wind electricity generation projects
- Develop a detailed roadmap for long-term decarbonisation of the commercial sector including requirements arising from recast EU legislation, with specific actions to be published in Climate Action Plan 2024
- Establish the new Maritime Area Regulatory Authority
However, the detailed implementation steps for these actions will not be available until a supplementary Annex of Actions, including timelines and responsible organisations, is published in “early 2023”.
Ireland’s Climate Action Plan is now firmly established as a pillar of Irish government policymaking. However, the electorate is becoming accustomed to the pattern of regular updates and ever more ambitious announcements. The 2023 update continues this pattern. We await with interest the announcement and implementation of the numerous actions that are promised.
For more information and expert advice on the Climate Action Plan, contact a member of our Energy team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.