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NESC climate report a timely call for action, but lacks bite

1 Oct 2012

Study says retrofitting one million buildings by 2020 would have multiple benefits

Friends of the Earth has welcomed a new report on how Ireland can meet its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The study, by the secretariat of the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), was requested by Government as part of a programme of work to develop climate legislation and a new action plan to reduce emissions. The NESC report finds that there are policy options available, especially in retrofitting our building stock, that can significantly reduce emissions beyond our current plans.

Welcoming the report, Friends of the Earth Director, Oisin Coghlan, said
"The central message of this report is that we can achieve our 2020 climate targets but that we're not moving fast enough. It will take political leadership and more expert officials across Government to make it happen. The good news is there is potential for significant job creation in the main new opportunity the report identifies: retrofitting up to one million buildings to improve their energy efficiency by 2020."

The report finds that:

  • Successful implementation of all currently planned Government policies would bring Ireland within striking distance of our EU 2020 emissions targets, but still off track for the longer term. Nor can successful implementation be taken for granted.
  • There are significant additional opportunities for cost-effective measures to reduce emissions, especially in retrofitting for energy saving in buildings. This would also create jobs, increase energy security, reduce fuel poverty and improve health outcomes. This doesn't need massive government spending but will need more people working on it than the Government is currently providing.
  • Ireland should focus in the first instance on achieving emission reductions in Ireland and only consider spending taxpayers' money on buying carbon credits overseas as an insurance policy.
  • Many Government policies are not on track. The recession may make our 2020 target easier to reach but without corrective action from next year we will be very badly placed in 2020 to meet our future targets.

Mr Coghlan continued:
"Once again, this report shows that it is not lack of policy options that delays climate action in Ireland, it is lack of implementation. That's why the next step on Minister Hogan's Roadmap is so important - the publication of a draft climate Bill to put our EU targets into national law and establish and independent commission to advise Government and publicly monitor progress".

In the results of the public consultation on climate policy and legislation published recently 90% of respondents wanted to see our emissions targets enshrined in national law, not just for 2020 but for 2030, 2040 and 2050. Over 92% supported the establishment of a body to advise Government and monitor progress. Strikingly, a solid majority opposed the idea of stakeholders being represented on the body, with majorities in the 90s favouring expert membership and independence from Government.

This NESC secretariat report is a step in the right direction, but it is constrained by not being prepared by a wholly independent body. While the stakeholder-based Council did not have right of approval on this report, the fundamental orientation of the secretariat is to tread a pragmatic path in search of consensus. The report therefore suffers by comparison with the plain-speaking, equivalent report of the UK Climate Change Committee, established on a statutory footing by the UK Climate Change Act. When it comes to our own draft Bill in a couple of months time, the UK Committee and the more recent Irish Fiscal Advisory Council remain the most salient models.

"This NESC report lacks the bite of a truly independent take on our climate policies. We needed An Bord Snip for climate pollution. This is too concerned with not ruffling feathers among the vested interests and senior civil servants around the NESC table," Mr Coghlan concluded.

The Government's legislative programme, published by the Department of the Taosieach on the first day of the new Dáil term two weeks ago, reiterates that the Heads of the Climate Bill will be approved by Cabinet, published and referred to the Oireachtas environment committee for consideration before the Christmas recess. Friends of the Earth expects the Bill to published before the Minister for the Environment heads to the UN climate talks in Doha in early December, as the incoming president of the EU Council of Environment Ministers.

Harry McGee's analysis of the NESC report in the Irish Times is here.

You can hear Friends of the Earth Director, Oisin Coghlan, discuss the report on RTE's Drivetime here. The item starts at 1hr and 48 mins.



  1. The Department of the Environment press release and link to the report is here:,31203,en.htm
  2. There is an Irish Times analysis piece online here:
  3. If all currently planned policies and measures (EPA WAM scenario) were successfully implemented Ireland would just miss our cumulative 2013-2020 target (an overshoot of 1.9 million tonnes of CO2e on an overall Carbon Budget for 2013-2020 of 330.8 Mt for the non-ETS sector). But even with that we would overshoot our annual target for 2020 by 4.1Mt (NESC page 37-38).
  4. More and deeper retrofitting would close the "distance-to-target" by 1.74 Mt annually by 2020 (NESC page 139).
  5. Our analysis of the recently published public consultation results is here:
  6. The UK Climate Change Committee report that is equivalent to today's NESC report is here:
  7. Minister Hogan's Roadmap for the development of climate policy is here:,31203,en.htm
  8. The climate Bill is in Section C and G of the Government's new legislative programme for this Dáil session:

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