Dáil Carbon Budget vote a vital milestone for climate action

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Dáil sets binding ceilings on climate polluting emissions to 2025 and 2030. Now the Government must divide the "pollution pie" between sectors.

Dáil passing the Carbon Budgets 6 April 2022

Friends of the Earth has welcomed the final adoption of binding climate pollution targets by the Dáil as "a vital milestone on the road to sustained climate action". In a packed Dáil on Wednesday night, the carbon budgets for 2021-2025 and 2026-2030 were adopted on a cross-party basis with only 8 TDs opposing the motion. The vote came just two days after the IPCC had issued its most stark call yet for "immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors".

Commenting, Oisín Coghlan, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth, said:

"Wednesday's vote was a vital milestone on the road to sustained climate action This was the first time the Oireachtas has adopted binding short-term climate pollution targets. And crucially it was done on an all-party basis. The carbon budgets will be a key driver of action across all government departments and a key lever for the Oireachtas to hold the government to account.

"It is 15 years ago this month since Friends of the Earth and the Stop Climate Chaos launched our campaign for a strong climate law including a carbon budgeting mechanism. Nine climate Bills later, we have finally reached the moment where our parliament has adopted binding 5-year targets for cutting pollution. It's taken far too long but we have finally reached this vital milestone."

Under the climate law passed last summer, the expert Climate Change Advisory Council proposed two economy-wide emissions ceilings, known as carbon budgets, for the two five-year periods from 2021-2025 and 2026-2030. Following detailed consideration by the Oireachtas Committee on climate action and a public consultation, the budgets were approved by the Government at the end of February. Now they have been formally adopted as binding by votes of the Seanad on Tuesday and the Dáil on Wednesday.

The next step is for the Government to divide the national budget - the pollution pie or emissions cake - between the different sectors, creating sectoral emission ceilings. This is likely to prove controversial as the indicative ranges published by Government in November only come in under the binding national total if each sector makes the maximum carbon savings. However, the IFA and other agri-business lobbyists have continually protested that they are only prepared to try to achieve the easier end of the range proposed by Government. Critically, now that the binding national budgets have been adopted by the Dáil any shortfall of savings in one sector will have to be made up by another sector.

Mr Coghlan continued:

"The adoption of the first two carbon budgets is the end of a marathon and the start of a sprint. The sprint to reduce our polluting emissions fast enough to contain climate breakdown and fairly enough to leave no one behind. Every sector will have to make its fair share of carbon savings. Every tonne not saved in transport will have to be cut in heating, or every tonne not saved by farmers will have to be cut by householders or businesses."

Ministers indicated in the Dáil on Wednesday that they hope to have the sectoral emissions ceilings finalised and published by the end of June.