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All sectors of economy to be affected as ‘transformational’ first carbon budget mandates deep cuts to emissions

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

he budget says Ireland can emit just 295 million tonnes (mt) of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen up to 2025, and only 200mt from then until the end of 2030.

That works out as an average of 59mt per year for the first five years and 40mt per year for the second five-year period.

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

The programme for government committed to an average 7pc reduction per year between now and 2030, but the CCAC said the time-lag between actions and outcomes meant that level of cut could not be achieved immediately.

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

A provisional five-year budget for the 2031-2036 period has also been submitted which would see total emissions amount to 151mt or an annual average of just over 30mt.

The CCAC warns in its accompanying report that: “The proposed carbon budgets will require transformational changes for society and the economy which are necessary; failing to act on climate change would have grave consequences.”

CCAC chairperson Marie Donnelly said: “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 organised way.”

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

The budgets for the first two five-year periods are calculated in such a way as to achieve the 51pc reduction in greenhouse gas emissions required by 2030 under the Climate Act passed last summer.

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

The CCAC says the reductions will be challenging for all sectors and warns: “It is critically important that the potential for adverse impacts is identified, recognised and addressed.

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

The particular difficulties presented for agriculture are also acknowledged. “The role of agriculture and land use in carbon budgets was considered in great detail,” the CCAC says.

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

The rewetting of large tracts of grassland as well as peatland is recommended, along with a dramatic increase in afforestation.

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

Mr Ryan will now bring it to the Government and the Oireachtas for approval.

Once adopted by the Oireachtas, the Minister will divide the budget between the various sectors, setting out how many tonnes of emissions may be produced by activities under such headings as transport, industry, energy generation and agriculture.

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