Irish government departments face funding cuts over missed climate change targets

By on 04/11/2019
Leo Varadkar says Ireland is reducing carbon emissions but “not fast enough” and that “the old way of doing things has not worked”.

Irish government departments and agencies that fail to deliver on climate action commitments will be punished with reduced funding, the government has confirmed.

Details of the penalties – which will be a key element of five-yearly carbon budgets, legislation for which is due to be published by the end of the year – were revealed in Dublin last week, at a briefing on progress in implementing the government’s climate action plan. The plan sets out actions to be taken by 13 departments and 40 agencies.

According to the First Progress Report on the Climate Action Plan, of 176 measures to be implemented in the second and third quarters of 2019, 149 were complete or on schedule and 27 – roughly 15% – were delayed.   

Ireland’s Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said the country is reducing carbon emissions but “not fast enough” and that “the old way of doing things has not worked”.

He added that the government was prepared to take unpopular actions to encourage behaviour change in the fight against climate change.

“The greatest reason for the failure to deliver climate action of the scale needed to date has been the absence of sectoral accountability. It has always been somebody else’s problem; another department, another agency or another sector in the economy is to blame,” Varadkar said, as reported by the Irish Times.

It is hoped that introducing funding penalties for departments that don’t deliver will act as a greater incentive and help to speed up progress. The penalties will be included in the Climate Action (Amendment) Bill, which sets carbon budgets and is to be in place by the end of the year. 

Reasons for delay

Of the climate action plan measures that are not yet in place, “resource constraints (often human rather than financial) and lengthy procedural issues were most commonly cited as the reasons for delay”, according to the progress report.

The main delays were in forming carbon budgets from 2021, which would limit the CO2 each sector in the economy is permitted to emit; updating planning guidelines for onshore wind; and increasing “the volumes and frequencies of renewable electricity support scheme auctions” to achieve a 70% renewable electricity target by 2030.

A number of transport measures have also been delayed due to public consultation, and a roadmap to decarbonise public transport has yet to be completed.

Milestones identified in the plan include the introduction of requirements to ensure new homes are of “nearly zero energy” buildings standard; commitment to support net-zero emissions at EU level by 2050; a phased end of oil exploration in Irish offshore waters; and reform of marine area legislation to facilitate massive expansion of offshore wind.

A retrofitting model taskforce has also been set up to deliver a new national retrofitting plan which will group homes in the same area together to lower cost, with easy pay-back options through utility bills.

“This marks good progress but we must consider what barriers exist to achieving 100% delivery and make sure we keep pushing across the board,” said Ireland’s minster for Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton.  

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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