In the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the EU agreed to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU to 8 per cent below 1990 levels. Under Decision made in 2002 Ireland agreed to a target of limiting its greenhouse gas emissions to 13 per cent above 1990 levels in 2008-2012 as part of the EU target, and to at least 20 per cent of 1990 levels by 2020.
Ireland agreed to a 30% target if other developed countries make similar reductions and advanced countries make contributions within their capabilities. This allowing for an increase reflected that Ireland was relatively underdeveloped in 1990.
Ireland ratified the Kyoto Protocol on May 31, 2002, with the other EU Member States so that the purpose of binding as international law and as an obligation under EU law accommodate future growth.
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government presents a Carbon budget setting out progress of the targets to the Dail annually since 2007.
The EPA prepares a national greenhouse gas inventory under guidelines prescribed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and EU requirements. It must be furnished to the EU Commission annually. In turn the EU submits documents to the United Nations body under the Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Irish Climate Change Strategies
Ireland has adopted National Climate Change Strategies to meet its Kyoto commitments. The first National Climate Strategy was adopted in 2000 . It set out a programme committee obligations but give little detail
The second National climate strategy covered the period 2007-2012. It sought to reduce net emissions to 66.216 million tonnes as a yearly average over the period. That was 3.2 million tonnes above the national Kyoto target. It would have required the purchase of average of 3.2 million carbon credits each year under the Kyoto Protocol.
Following the formation of the Fianna Fail Green party government in 2007 the Green Party Minister for the Environment, sought to achieve a more ambitious target reducing the amount of carbon allowances required to be purchased purchase 1 million carbon allowances per annum. The 2007-12 Strategy aimed to achieve reductions in emissions mainly by:
- increases in the generation of electricity from renewable courses;
- shifting towards greater public transport through Transport 21, car technology improvements, the Mineral Oils Tax Relief II Scheme and biofuels market penetration;
- revising Building Regulations to require a 40 per cent improvement on prevailing thermal performance standards; the introduction of Building Energy Rating, grants for greener homes;
- diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill and improving landfill gas capture; and
- measures to raise public awareness, tax incentives, purchasing carbon allowances, new land use planning guidelines, and funding research and development.
- new supports for afforestation, CAP reform;
- the introduction of energy efficiency targets for the public sector;
- reductions in the commercial and industrial sectors from Emissions Trading, the voluntary Large Industry Energy Network, a Bioheat support scheme and a Combined Heat and Power support scheme;
The Strategy was supported by other policies including those set out in various national plans including :
- the National Development Plan 2007-2013,
- the National Policy on Sustainable Development -Towards 2016,
- Delivering a sustainable energy future for Ireland – The Energy Policy Framework 2007-2020,
- the renewed Programme for Government 2009,
- the National Renewable Energy Action Plan 2010, the Energy Efficiency Action Plan 2009-2020,
- the Bio-Energy Action Plan 2007,
- the Sustainable Transport Action Plan 2008 – Smarter Travel: A Sustainable Travel Future 2009-2020,
- the National Spatial Strategy 2002-2020, Building Ireland’s Smart Economy – A Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal 2008,
- the Carbon Budgets 2008, 2009 & 2010,
National policies are to be incorporated into local development plans, regional planning guidelines, water quality management plans, waste management plans, air pollution management plans, smokeless coal orders and numerous other environmental and energy plans and policies adopted at regional and local levels.
The requirement is also supported by the fact many EU programmes require that the targets be met to allow funding.
A l Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security was established to oversee Ireland’s international commitments in respect of Climate Change. This is supported by two inter-departmental groups, There was also an informal Expert Advisory Panel,.
Comhar (the National Council for Sustainable Development) was to provide leadership for, and promotes adaption to, climate change. Overall responsibility for environmental matters rests with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (the Minister for the Environment).
Responsibility for administering the greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme lies Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA is the regulator in respect of waste management legislation, integrated pollution and prevention legislation.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) is “to promote and assist the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions”.
The National Treasury Management Agency purchase emissions credits under the Kyoto Protocol.
Renewable Energy Division of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (the Department of Energy) is responsible for overseeing EU commitments,
Commission for Energy Regulation and EirGrid who deal, inter alia, with the electricity connection, distribution and transmission systems responsibilities in meeting EU targets for renewable energy through grid connection and grid development strategies.
The National Oil Reserves Agency administers and enforces the biofuel obligation for transport fuels.
The Climate Change Bill 2010 lapsed when the last Government was dissolved in February 2011. The new Government has announced that it will be introducing a new Climate Change Bill.
Carbon Capture and Storage
Carbon capture and storage is a new and somewhat controversial technology which involves injecting carbon dioxide into geological formations. Directive 2009/31 does not have to be transposed until June 25, 2011 except for art.33 dealing with capture-readiness assessment. There are reports that a former gas field and abandoned salt mines are being considered as potential storage facilities.
The Carbon Budget 2010 reported that Ireland achieved its national target of 13.5 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2010 and is on target to meet 40 per cent by 2020. Emissions from transport fell by almost 1 per cent in 2009, the first decrease since 1993. ETS emissions were only 0.41 Mt below target in 2009 and Ireland did not have to purchase any emissions allowances (some emissions are recession related). Biofuels accounted for about 1.5 per cent of the energy used for road transport in 2009, less than the 2 per cent target.
The EPA’s National Inventory Report 2010 (NIR) reported that emissions from agriculture had decreased 7.3 per cent since 1990. There have been also been significant reductions in some indirect emissions which can also impact on the assessment of human induced climate change. Emissions reductions in SO2, CO and NMVOC of 70, 60 and 30 per cent respectively have been achieved although emissions of NOX have remained fairly static mainly due to the increase in road traffic.
Progress in reducing GHGs in the non-trade sector, agriculture and domestic housing is slower. NIR also reports that emissions from electricity and the industrial sector increased by 29 and 19 per cent respectively in the 1990-2008 period although these percentages must have decreased in the last two years. In broad terms, energy, agriculture, industrial emissions and waste accounted for 67.8, 26.2, 4.4 and 1.6 per cent of total emissions in 2008 which was 23 per cent higher than in 1990. More progress is vital if Ireland is to meet its 2012 targets. This is another major challenge for our new Government.