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Policy issues concerning Environment

The latest World Meteorological Organization report United in Science 2021 finds that COVID-19 has not reduced emissions or changed behaviour, and that we are not ‘growing back greener’.  Carbon dioxide emissions are nowhere close to reduction targets and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are at record levels.  In fact it looks like a green recovery is almost out of reach unless we act now.  

The Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paints an ominous picture.  Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.

Ireland has exceeded its the EU targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions for 2013-2020 by 12.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, and meeting our 2030 targets will be challenging according to new projections from the Environmental Protection Agency for Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions for 2020 to 2040.

The European Court of Auditors Special Report on the Common Agricultural Policy and Climate has found that the €100 billion of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds attributed to climate action had little impact on such emissions, which have not changed significantly since 2010 and CAP mostly finances measures with a low potential to mitigate climate change.

The Economic Recovery Plan announced today, while welcome, is not of the scale required to address the social, economic and environmental challenges that we now face. Covid-19 has brought extraordinary social and economic costs.  Alongside this, the challenges that existed pre-Covid remain and cannot be ignored

The OECD Environmental Performance Review of Ireland 2021 recommends that climate, circular economy and biodiversity policies need to be swiftly implemented.  The report notes the Ireland has failed to decouple the economy from environmental pressures and significant challenges exist in terms of emissions from transport and agriculture.   

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill contains welcome commitments.  In order for it to be a success, significant investment and political will is required. Reducing emissions requires the implementation of policy decisions made in the interest of a sustainable future rather than short-term sectoral interests. This is where our Government and all members of the Oireachtas must show leadership and act in the national interest.  

According to a new report from the CSO, improvements are needed in Ireland’s waste water treatment to meet safety standards.

Ireland ranks 11th out of 15 comparable EU countries in this year’s Sustainable Progress Index, commissioned by Social Justice Ireland.  The index comprises three dimensions: economy, society and environment.  Ireland is ranked 10th out of the 15 countries on the economy.  On the social index, Ireland is in the middle of the ranking, in 6th place.  Ireland, however, scores last on the environment index which suggests we are facing significant challenges in meeting our environmental targets.   Delivering on the Programme for Government commitments on climate action becomes even more important as a result of these findings.

According to the latest data published by the CSO, €2.4 billion was not collected by the Exchequer due to direct subsidies and revenue foregone due to preferential tax treatment supported fossil fuel activities in Ireland in 2018. This represents an increase of 8 per cent on the previous year.