The All Ireland Sustainable Energy Forum – a constituent part of the Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) – publishes today its analysis of the need for radical change to allow Ireland to deliver the deep cuts in carbon emissions that are sorely needed. (1)
The Irish Government’s Climate Change Plan admits the Republic is “way off course” in its attempts to achieve its emissions targets. The Republic is “currently 85% dependent on fossil fuels”. When the state’s carbon footprint should be reducing greenhouse gas emissions they “have been rising rapidly” and that trend has to be reversed. This NFLA / AISEF report calls for Councils to be a core part of the solution in delivering a step-change for Irish climate policy.
The recent local and European elections witnessed the climate change issue being one of the most prevalent concerns of the Irish electorate, and significant support given to councillors and political parties that wish to see much more radical change in dealing with the ‘climate emergency’.
In June 2019 the Irish Government launched a new Plan setting out a number of targets, including a pathway to zero emissions by 2050. Under the plan, the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2030. Oil boilers will not be allowed in new homes by 2022 or gas boilers by 2025, and 400,000 heat pumps will be installed by 2030. The plan aims to have 950,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030, a near doubling of the previous commitment of 500,000 by 2030. The Government will invest in a “nationwide” charging network and by 2025 at least one recharging point will be required at new non-residential buildings with more than 10 parking spaces.
The Forum report notes that the Plan would be most effective if local Councils are given clear priority and leadership to develop such policies in a wide number of areas. Councils could also play a focal role in meaningful engagement with citizens and communities through more coherent mobilisation of existing structures and initiatives to inform, engage, motivate, and empower people to take climate action.
In 2019 the Government wants to agree a Climate Action Charter with Local Authorities (which will amongst other things deliver a 50% improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 on the 2009 base). The Government says it will support local authority leadership. The Forum welcomes this and the report gives an overview of some of the untapped ambition that is out there with an analysis of the Climate Change Action Plans of the four Greater Dublin Councils. Good work is also taking place in other parts of the island, such as in Tipperary, through the support of the Tipperary Energy Agency, and in the North with some active work on low carbon action in the likes of Belfast City Council.
The Forum concludes that the four local Climate Action Plans are heading in the right direction, but as they only cover the next five years are fairly limited in ambition. The report notes:
- With the correct vision and involvement of the community, local authorities could achieve so much more in achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
- Local Authorities in the Dublin area and the rest of Ireland should use the opportunity presented by the development of the Dublin Region Energy Master Plan and similar documents to push for more powers and financial resources to allow them to play a greater role in meeting Ireland’s Net Zero Carbon ambitions.
- It would be instructive for Ireland to look at what a handful of the more innovative local authorities in the UK and elsewhere in Europe have been doing to meet their climate ambitions. This should also look in more detail at what new legislation might be required to allow the same actions to take root in Irish Local Authorities. In that sense, the Forum recommends Councils read the parallel report on climate emergency and local authority action developed by the NFLA for UK Councils. (2)
Without more radical and rapid change, the island of Ireland will remain a ‘laggard’ in Europe on climate change action. Recent election results show the public want to see such change, and it is incumbent on councillors, council officers and central government to start working together better to deliver it.
All Ireland Sustainable Energy Forum Chair Councillor John Trainor said:
“I welcome this useful and detailed report. It outlines the scale of the climate change challenge on the island of Ireland and the absolute necessity of central government to give local Councils the wherewithal to play an important role in reducing carbon emissions. A clear comparison between the state of climate change mitigation on the island of Ireland and Britain is that local decentralised energy solutions are so much further forward with the latter, along with a greater sense of urgency, particularly in the past year. Irish Councils are playing their part, but they could and should do much more, and I call on the Irish Energy Minister and the Northern Ireland Executive to give Councils (which in the north are the only functioning democratic institution around at present) the powers to tackle the ‘climate emergency’. Such decentralisation could lead to the revitalisation of Irish local government and the type of dynamism Ireland is currently so lacking in this area.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) NFLA Policy Briefing 189 is attached with this media release.
(2) NFLA Policy Briefing 187