National Legislation and Policy

The National Policy Statement on climate change sets out a transition to a competitive, low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050; based on: (1) an aggregate reduction in CO2 emissions of at least 80% (relative to 1990 levels) by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors; and (2) an approach to carbon neutrality in the agricultural and land use sector.

Key provisions of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 to meet international obligations and targets to 2020 and 2030 includes the preparation and submission to Government for approval of successive 5-yearly National Mitigation Plans and National Adaptation Framework processes, which are designed to address the causes and consequences of climate change in Ireland. The Act also established the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) to advise government on climate policy and review progress on annual targets.

In 2018, the government tasked the Citizens’ Assembly with considering the question of Ireland becoming a leader in climate action. The findings of the Assembly were then considered by a special Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action, which subsequently published its report and recommendations (Houses of the Oireachtas, 2019). Following this, the government published the Climate Action Plan in 2019.

The Climate Action Plan 2019 charts a course towards meeting EU emissions reduction targets for Ireland to 2030. The plan is an important step towards reaching the longer term target of net zero emissions by 2050; however, it assumes a very significant increase in the rate of decarbonisation post 2030. International analysis suggest that early actions can lead to more cost effective decarbonisation.

In 2020, the new government committed to an average 7 per cent per annum reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030, equivalent to a 51 per cent reduction over the decade and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. New measures are expected to be announced over the next year to realise this ambition.

 

The Paris Agreement

In December 2015, a new global agreement was reached to address climate change. The agreement aims to: (1) hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above preindustrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, (2) increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, (3) make finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low GHG emissions and climate-resilient development.

To achieve this, GHG emissions must peak as soon as possible and then be reduced rapidly. The Agreement establishes a long-term adaptation goal of strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with a view to contributing to sustainable development in the context of the 2°C temperature goal. This makes it clear that, if mitigation activities succeed in limiting the rise in global temperature, less adaptation will be needed. The Paris Agreement enters its implementation phase in 2020, and in doing so replaces the 1997 Kyoto Protocol as the framework for achievement of the objective of the UNFCCC, which is to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

 

Renewable Energy

The Renewable Energy Directive which is incorporated into the EU 2020 Climate and Energy Package, requires Ireland to meet 16% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. There are also specific national targets established under the National Renewable Energy Action Plan targets for electricity, transport and heating, for example that renewable energy should supply 12% of heating, 40% of electricity and 10% of transport energy requirements by 2020.

In 2019, renewable energy made up approximately 12% of energy used, mainly from bioenergy and wind power, which is some way short of our 16% target. Currently, 37.6% of electricity generation is from renewable sources, relative to the 40% target for 2020.

 

Carbon Tax

In 2009, a carbon tax was introduced at a rate of €15 per tonne on certain uses of fossil fuels. This has since increased to €26 per tonne and now applies to all fossil fuels, including coal and peat. The carbon tax is estimated to reduce emissions by about 0.3 Mt CO2 equivalent per annum. The intention of the carbon tax is to also encourage householders to significantly improve energy efficiency in their homes by availing of grants for better home insulation, and to upgrade their old oil or gas boilers to high efficiency condensing boilers. 

 

Transport

To make Ireland ‘a leader in responding to climate disruption’, as per the Climate Action Plan 2019, a fundamental change in Irish transport policy is required. This needs to be aimed at delivering long-term avoid and shift, followed by improve. A reliance on measures for improving the energy and carbon efficiency of vehicles is evident in Irish policy. We also need to consider avoiding journeys where possible, through innovative spatial and transport planning for compact development, and for shifting to low-carbon transport systems of walking, cycling and public transport. 

 

EPA Research Programme

EPA Research 2030 is a 10-year high-level research programming framework under which funding will be allocated under four interconnected research hubs. From 2021, climate-related research will be funded principally under the EPA Research 2030 Research Hub on:

  • Addressing the Climate Change Evidence Needs - Climate change is already having an impact in Ireland and strong mitigation and adaptation measures are needed. Research is essential in providing the evidence necessary to improve our knowledge systems and inform policy decisions that will advance our ambitions to be carbon neutral and resilient to climate disruption.

Previously, under its EPA Research Programme 2014-2020, the EPA funded research in climate under its Climate Pillar.

Further details of the latest EPA Funding Research Opportunities and Awards.

You can also learn more about national research in this area, by consulting the national Climate Research Coordination Group Annual Reports.

In addition, the first five-year assessment of climate research activities in Ireland was initiated by the EPA in 2020 and is due to be completed in the period 2021-2022. The work will update national understanding of climate change, its impacts and response options and inform policy options in climate mitigation and adaptation. It will also identify, inter alia, evidence gaps and research priorities. Accordingly, the report of this assessment will be a critical source of evidence for the national research prioritisation and planning processes.

The EPA is a member of the Climate Joint Programming Initiative (Member States-driven initiative which aims to enhance collaboration between national research programmes in Europe to address key societal challenges in a more efficient and effective manner). It connects scientific disciplines, enables cross-border research and increases the science-practice interaction. JPI Climate contributes to the overall objective of developing a European Research Area and to underpin the European efforts in tackling the societal challenge of climate change.

EPA-funded Research Projects

Since 2014, in this area, more than 130 research projects have been funded (total commitment of about €19.5m) (as of May 2021).

Examples of EPA-funded research projects include research on:

  • The impact of climate change on phenology;
  • Dialogue on pathways towards a low carbon, climate-resilient Ireland;
  • Carbon neutrality; and
  • Enabling transition.
    Research climate word cloud

For more details regarding the EPA-funded projects, please go to our Public Searchable Projects Database.

EPA Research Publications

To date, 128 EPA Research Reports have been published in relation to Climate (as of May 2021).