I welcome today’s publication by the EPA which indicates that Ireland’s 2019 greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by 4.5% compared with 2018 levels. This is the largest annual reduction in emissions since 2011. I’m particularly pleased at the improvements shown by the reduction in coal use, and the increase in the amount of electricity generated by wind power. Agricultural emissions fell by almost 4%, indicating progress is possible that both reduces costs and reduces emissions. Transport emissions fell by only 0.3%, indicating we need a major reorientation towards public transport, cycling and walking.
While the reduction in total emissions is a step in the right direction, Ireland still exceeded its emissions budget for 2019. While emissions for 2020 are likely to be lower again due to the pandemic, it is unlikely we will meet our overall EU 2020 targets.
In recognition of the challenges we face the government has stepped up its ambition.
Our Programme for Government commits to an average 7% per annum reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030 (a 51% reduction over the decade) and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. I will introduce the Climate Action Bill in the Dáil shortly which will set out how we intend to reach that goal.
The next Climate Action Plan will detail the actions that must be taken in every Government Department and Body in order to ensure we deliver on these commitments.
This will be challenging and will require fundamental changes in many parts of Irish life, but it is also an opportunity to create a cleaner greener economy and society. In making these changes, we will be able to improve the health, welfare and security of all our people as well as our planet.