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Climate Change Strategy must prioritise pollution cuts over permit purchases

31 Mar 2007

New Government plan faces credibility gap

The Government's new Climate Change Strategy, to be published on Monday 2nd April, must show that it will cut emissions here at home and not rely on buying pollution permits overseas, Friends of the Earth has warned. Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions in 2005 were 70 million tonnes (MT) and rising, compared to a Kyoto target of 63 MT for each year from 2008 to 2012. One of the key questions for the Government is will the plan actually reduce emissions and by how much. Otherwise businesses, consumers and taxpayers face a bill of over 100 million euro a year to buy overseas permits to cover the overshoot [1].

Friends of the Earth Director, Oisin Coghlan, said:

"The new plan cannot simply be a wishlist of fancy schemes and bright ideas. That's like pre-election tax promises with no costings. The climate plan must clearly show how much lower our emissions will be in 2012 than they are now, and how we will get there. Kyoto is clear that buying pollution permits must be supplemental to domestic action. Right now the Government plans to cover more than half Ireland's overshoot with overseas permits. How is that supplemental?" [2]

The Government has a real credibility problem on climate change. Their last strategy, in 2000, promised much but has delivered little. That plan intended to meet our Kyoto target by reducing emissions here at home by 8%. Instead our greenhouse gas emissions have grown by 4% [3]. The overall rise is now almost twice what we committed to under Kyoto. This failure is largely due to the fact that the Government ditched or delayed many of the proposals in its own plan. The carbon tax was abandoned. Moneypoint is still burning coal. The building standards are nowhere near adequate and the reform of VRT and Motor Tax is still being discussed seven years later.

"Only legislation can close the credibility gap caused by our Kyoto overshoot. Friends of the Earth will soon be publishing a draft bill to enshrine Ireland's pollution reduction targets in law and provide for an annual carbon budget to ensure we make steady progress year-on-year ," Mr Coghlan continued.

The Government will say the Kyoto protocol provides for the purchase of pollution permits overseas, but in the next breath they will say we need to prepare for much deeper emissions reductions post 2012. You don't prepare for tougher targets by ignoring your current commitments and buying permits instead. That just makes your future task all the harder.

"Sometimes the Government's attitude to reducing Ireland's climate pollution reminds me of St. Augustine - Lord help me be pure, but not yet", Mr Coghlan concluded.

The Government is already signed up to the EU's long term targets of cutting climate pollution by at least 20% by 2020 and at least 60% by 2050. For Ireland that means reducing our emissions from 70 MT a year now to 50 MT in 2020 and 25 MT in 2050. By that time there will be no room for overseas permit purchases as developing countries will be using their full allocation. The sooner Ireland starts on the path to doing its fair share here at home the better.

Notes

1) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published figures in February showing Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions for 2005 were 69.95 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MT CO2eq). Our Kyoto target is 315 MT for the five years from 2008-2012, or an average of 63 MT a year. Our current overshoot therefore is 7 MT a year or a projected 35 MT over five years. The cost of a pollution permit for one tonne of carbon is projected to be about 15 euro/tonne putting a total price on Ireland's overshoot of 525 million euro (€105m a year for five years).

2) With our projected Kyoto overshoot standing at 35 MT the Government has already announced plans to buy 18 MT of permits overseas, just over half the total.
It has already put aside €270m for this purpose in last December's Budget. Irish businesses participating in the EU's Emissions trading scheme are expected to buy another 10 MT and pass the cost onto their customers. That still leaves a shortfall of 7 MT.

3) When the last National Climate Change Strategy (NCCS) was published in 2000 it reckoned that Ireland's climate pollution was already at 121% of our 1990 levels. Our Kyoto target is to limit the rise to just 13%. The NCCS planned to cut emissions here in Ireland to meet that target, involving reductions of 8% compared to 1990. In fact, the EPA's latest figures, for 2005, show our emissions have rise to 125% of 1990 levels.

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