Ireland launches climate change strategy

Environment minister presents "radical blueprint" to keep Kyoto target within sight

Irish environment minister Noel Dempsey yesterday unveiled a "radical blueprint" to put the brakes on Ireland's spiralling greenhouse gas emissions. The national climate change strategy includes a commitment to phase in carbon taxes from 2002, end coal-fired energy generation, cut agricultural emissions and participate in EU and international emissions trading.

Mr Dempsey acknowledged that Ireland is currently set to overshoot its Kyoto protocol target of no more than 13% emission growth by 2008-12 by 20 percentage points (ENDS Daily 3 May). Central to his strategy is a plan to introduce revenue-neutral carbon taxation across a broad range of sectors, including transport.

The government is seeking emissions cuts from seven sectors, with the biggest single cut of 5.65m tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent due to come from energy production. Virtually all of this should be achieved by closing Ireland's single coal-fired power station or converting it to natural gas by 2008.

Transport is called on to cut 2.67m tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Achievement of this target will depend on a swathe of measures ranging from EU-led improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency and energy labelling for new cars to planned changes to road tax and increased use of public transport.

Agriculture remains Ireland's single largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It is scheduled to cut 2.41m tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Lower methane emissions will be achieved primarily through reducing livestock numbers, while changes to fertiliser use should bring reductions in nitrous oxide emissions.

Better energy efficiency should help cut 2m tonnes of CO2 equivalent in the industrial and commercial sector, the plan says. Tighter energy efficiency regulations for buildings will fuel emission cuts by the construction industry and at household level. Increased use of energy recovery by the waste industry is predicted as is increased forest cover on farmland.

Among early responses to the plan, environmental group Earth Watch Ireland welcomed the strategy, but predicted resistance to its implementation. The Irish Farmers Association (Ifa) said livestock herd reductions would only be acceptable if national and EU aid was used to maintain farm incomes. The Irish Business and Employers Confederation (Ibec) claimed that proposed carbon taxes would damage the economy.

Follow Up:
Irish environment ministry, tel: +353 1 888 2000; press release & strategy; Ibec, tel: +353 1 660 1011; Environment Watch Ireland; {Ifa}, tel: +353 1 450 0266.

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