By Frank McDonaldIrish Times
November 2, 2000
All sectors of the economy will be affected by the implementation of the National Climate Change Strategy, which was compiled by the Department of the Environment following consultations with other Government departments and sectoral interests.
According to the Minister for the Environment, Mr Dempsey, it sets out "a radical blueprint for decoupling economic growth from the growth in greenhouse gas emissions" to meet a commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to limit the increase to 13 per cent above 1990 levels by 2010.
Under the programme, carbon taxes designed to achieve emission reductions are to be introduced on a phased basis and environmentally perverse subsidies, such as cheaper electricity for large industrial users, are to be phased out.
The main greenhouse gas in Ireland is carbon dioxide (CO2) arising from the burning of fossil fuels in transport, heating and electricity generation. Irish emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane (CH4) and nitrous-oxide (N2O), are proportionately high, mainly because of agriculture.
Emissions from the agriculture sector accounted for 35 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in 1990, the highest of all sectors. Emissions from the transport sector are forecast to have the largest increase - by 180 per cent - between now and 2010, largely because of the dramatic increase over recent years in car numbers.
Ireland needs to achieve a reduction of 13.1 million tonnes in carbon dioxide emissions to meet the national target. Mr Dempsey said the strategy provided a framework to do this while continuing to support economic growth.
The strategy recognises that the burden for the Kyoto commitment period and beyond must be borne equitably across all sectors. It includes a requirement to promote sustainable development and maximise economic efficiency with a preference for the use of least-cost measures.
At the same time, the Government is anxious to protect economic development. As a result, reductions in emissions are to be achieved through the use of economic instruments (including taxation and emissions trading) with broad sectoral or cross-sectoral application.
Among the key measures is the introduction on a phased basis across many sectors of "appropriate tax measures" aimed at abating carbon dioxide emissions. Ireland will also participate in the pilot EU emissions trading scheme and in international emissions trading, which would allow for the buying or selling of carbon dioxide quotas.
In the energy sector, the strategy pledges unspecified measures to end the use of coal for the ESB's 900-megawatt generating station at Moneypoint, on the Shannon Estuary, which is the largest single contributor to carbon-dioxide emissions. Options include converting it to run on natural gas or mothballing it.
The strategy calls for a switch to "less carbon-intensive fuels" for power generation and throughout industry. This would involve the use of more CHP (combined heat and power) plants, where energy efficiency of up to 80 per cent can be achieved, as well as an expansion in the use of renewable sources, such as wind power.
In the transport sector, one of the main proposals involves a further "rebalancing" of Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) to favour more fuel-efficient cars. It also proposes to introduce fuel economy labelling for all new cars as well as opting for less polluting vehicles for public transport and throughout the public sector.
The strategy refers to measures already announced to improve the public transport system, particularly in Dublin, with the aim of encouraging motorists to leave their cars at home. Fuel taxes may also be raised to limit the rate of increase in fuel consumption in transport.
In the agriculture sector, the strategy calls for a reduction in methane emissions from the national herd "equivalent to a reduction in livestock numbers by 10 per cent below 2010 projected levels". However, the Minister admitted yesterday that the measures required to achieve this have yet to be negotiated with farmers.
Given the value of forestry as a "sink" for carbon dioxide, the strategy calls for an intensified afforestation programme.
In the built environment and residential sector, the strategy emphasises the need for improved energy-use planning. Building regulations are to be amended to reduce energy use in new housing by up to 20 per cent in 2002, with further reductions to be achieved in 2005 by adjusting the new house grant scheme.
According to the document, the Government and relevant State agencies "will immediately undertake the necessary work to implement the measures, overseen by a high-level, inter-departmental group".