All sectors of the economy will be affected as the first ‘transformational’ carbon budget forces significant emissions cuts

Ireland’s Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) presented its first-ever carbon budget, telling the government it must find ways to prevent millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions entering the atmosphere.

The budget says Ireland can only export 295 million tons of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen until 2025, and only 200 million tons from then until the end of 2030.

This averages 59 million tons per year for the first five years and 40 million tons per year for the second five years.

It is an average annual percentage change of 4.8% during the first period and 8.3% during the second period.

The government program has committed to an average reduction of 7% annually between now and 2030, but the CCAC said the time lag between actions and results means the level of reduction cannot be achieved immediately.

The base year CCAC uses for comparison is 2018 when emissions were 68.3 million tons, and the reductions are designed to reduce that to 33.5 million tons by 2030.

An interim five-year budget has also been introduced for the period from 2031 to 2036 which will see total emissions reach 151 million tons or an annual average of just over 30 million tons.

In its accompanying report, the CCAC warns: «The proposed carbon budgets will require necessary transformational changes to society and the economy; failure to take action on climate change will have dire consequences.»

«The proposed carbon budgets will have an impact on society and the economy but allow us to act on climate change in a planned and organized way,» said CCAC President Mary Donnelly.

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She added, however: «Many of the required changes will only have a real impact on emissions in the second period.»

Budgets for the first two five-year periods are calculated in such a way as to achieve the 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions required by 2030 under a climate law passed last summer.

The third period, interim, is designed to continue the downward trend towards achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

The CCAC says the cuts will be challenging for all sectors and warns: “It is critical that potential negative impacts are identified, acknowledged and addressed.

“Individuals and communities at risk of job loss or disproportionate costs should be identified and assisted in making the transition.”

The special difficulties facing agriculture were also recognized. «The role of agriculture and land use in carbon budgets has been considered in great detail,» the CCAC says.

In all scenarios examined, some reduction in beef and/or dairy activity was found necessary to achieve reductions in this sector.

It is recommended to re-moisten large areas of grassland as well as peatlands, along with a significant increase in afforestation.

The budget was presented to Climate Action Secretary Eamonn Ryan after an all-day meeting of the CCAC.

Mr. Ryan will now present it to the government and the Oireachtas for approval.

Once approved by the Oireachtas, the minister will divide the budget among the various sectors, determining how many tons of emissions can be produced by activities under such headings as transport, industry, power generation and agriculture.

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