Clean Air Strategy

The CAS is being developed with the aim of promoting clean air policies to enhance and protect air quality. The CAS will provide the strategic policy framework to help promote intergovernmental policy design to deliver national goals, specifically, goals to reduce air pollution, promote cleaner air and improve the quality of air we breathe. Notably, the CAS will also aim to help Ireland comply with new and emerging EU legislation on air quality and tackle the larger climate change challenge.

Following the Clean Air Dialogue with the EU Commission, Ireland developed a paper to aid in a public consultation phase and invited submissions up to 28 April 2017. The public consultation paper included various sectoral issues including some that relate to both the air quality and climate mitigation challenges. The final draft of the CAS is expected to be published by the end of 2017.
As the focus of the strategy is on air quality and the air we breathe, there is an inherent connection to human health. Therefore, health impacts will be a major focus and strong theme of the CAS when it is released. The strategy will promote a range of policies relevant to all sectors including transport, energy, home heating and agriculture.

National Mitigation Plan

The NMP was released in July 2017 and is the first in a series of successive NMPs. The NMP must address many complex issues and interconnected impacts and therefore a ‘whole-of-government’ approach has been taken to produce the initial strategy with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment taking up the role of overseeing its development. As part of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, the NMP must set out a strategy for mitigating climate change and be produced not less than once every five years. The objective of the NMP is to enable Ireland’s transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050. This will be achieved through targeted national measures and actions aimed at managing the emissions of GHGs from a number of key sectors – electricity generation, transport, built environment and agriculture, forestry and land use.

The current NMP strategy outlines progress being made as of 2015 as well as measures and actions to deliver further progress to 2020 and 2030. In the electricity generation sector, increased usage of renewable energy has allowed for the avoidance of €286m in fossil fuel imports and GHG emissions reduction of 3.2 Mt CO2 with a 25.3% share of renewables in total electricity generation. In the built environment sector Government investment of c. €400m has to date aided 350,000 energy efficiency upgrades through grants, the public sector has improved energy efficiency by 21%, and carbon emissions have been cut by 548,000 tonnes, saving €154m in 2015. The Transport strategy in the current NMP outlines an ambition to have all new cars and vans sold in Ireland in 2030 to be zero emission or zero emission capable, as well as increasing the share of renewables in transport fuel. Agriculture and forestry both maintain well developed and ongoing programmes aimed at decreasing carbon footprint and increasing efficiency.

Climate Action Plan

The Climate Action Plan is an all of Government plan to address the growing concern over climate change. It was released in the Spring of 2019 and encompasses all sectors with emissions data available for all years from 1990-2035 and beyond for both air pollutants and climate related GHGs, and a clear focus on the actions, measures and policies to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change.

The plan identifies the nature and scale of the challenge faced by Ireland and sets out an ambitious course of action to address the issue. It also outlines the state of play across key sectors – electricity, transport, built environment, industry and agriculture. The plan also recognises the significant step-up required to close the gap towards the quickly approaching 2020 and 2030 targets.

Key highlights in the Climate Action Plan include the importance of prioritising climate action within the political and administrative systems, and the plan sets out governance arrangements, carbon -proofing policies, carbon budgets and greater accountability across government in order to work in this direction. Also highlighted are the additional co-benefits that may be achieved through greater implementation of policies and measures, such as warmer homes, cleaner air, sustainable use of scarce resources, more connected communities, and job creation through climate driven innovation and enterprise.

National Adaption Framework

Developed under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act of 2015, Ireland’s first National Adaptation Framework (NAF) was published on 19 January 2018. The NAF outlines a whole of government and society strategy to reduce the country’s vulnerability to negative effects of climate change and to potentially capitalize on positive ones.

The NAF includes a summary of projected global climate change, European and International policy drivers for adaptation, summary of climate change impacts for Ireland, progress to date on adaptation planning in Ireland, proposals for local authority or regional level adaptation strategies, and implementation and governance arrangements.

National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP)

Article 4 of the Renewable Energy Directive requires that each Member State adopt and submit to the European Commission an NREAP. The NREAP sets out individual national targets for renewable share of energy in 2020. There is a requirement that a report on progress be submitted to the European Commission every two years with the final report being submitted in December 2021. To date, Ireland has submitted three reports in 2012, 2014 and 2016. The 2016 report for Ireland states that for 2014 the renewable share of electricity (RES-E) was 22.7%, renewable share of heating (RES-H) was 6.6%, renewable share of transport (RES-T) was 5.2%, and the overall RES share for 2014 was 8.6%, up from 2013 at 7.6%. The targets for 2020 are RES-E 40%, RES-H 12%, RES-T 10% and an overall renewable energy Directive target of 16%.

The National Energy Modelling Group, hosted by SEAI, has established three scenarios – baseline, current trajectory and NREAP/NEEAP policy scenarios. According to Ireland’s Energy Projections 2017, Ireland falls short of the 16% target for 2020 under all three scenarios. The current trajectory scenario put Ireland at just over 13% by 2020, therefore missing the 2020 target by approximately 12 Mt CO2eq. Failure to meet targets will result in EU fines and could lead to an even greater challenge for meeting targets post-2020 due to less available funding for investment in policy actions and sustainable energy technologies and practices.

National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP)

In 2009 Ireland set a target to improve energy efficiency by 20% by 2020, which would equate to 31,925 GWh energy savings. The public sector has committed itself to an even greater challenge of improving energy efficiency by 33% by 2020. Article 24 of the Energy Efficiency Directive requires Member States to submit a NEEAP every three years. Ireland has submitted four NEEAPs to date with the 4th iteration being submitted in 2017. This most recent version provides a comprehensive overview on progress towards targets, measures in place to ensure targets are met and strategies and policies in place across residential, commercial, transport and public sectors.

Under the current trajectory scenario, it is projected that Ireland will miss the 2020 energy efficiency target of 20%. As of 2015 Ireland has achieved 60% of the target leaving us with 12% total energy efficiency, however the current trajectory scenario suggests that Ireland will only achieved 80% of the target by 2020 leaving us with only around 16% total energy efficiency, a shortfall of over 3%. It is important that continued policy action is developed to incentivise the uptake of sustainable energy technology and practice so that we can improve overall energy efficiency and subsequently help to improve progress towards achieving renewable energy target as well.

National Waste Prevention Programme (NWPP) and Other Waste Management

The Waste Framework Directive sets specific targets for Members States to achieve, including the establishment of a National Waste Prevention Programme (NWPP); the preparing for reuse or recycling of 50% of household derived paper, metal, plastic and glass; and the preparing for reuse / recycling or recovery of 70% of construction & demolition (C&D) non-hazardous waste. The latter two targets are due by the end of 2020, while NWPP had to be established by 2013.

Ireland’s NWPP was established in 2004, prior to the transposition of the Directive. According to EPA figures, Ireland is on track to achieve the household recycling target by a narrow margin, an opinion shared by the European Commission’s ‘Early Warning Report’ published in 2018. Achievement of the C&D waste target will be by a more comfortable margin based EPA figures, and again this view is shared in another European Commission Policy Report on the Waste Management Sector, which was issued by the Joint Research Centre in 2018.

Additional waste management directives for which Ireland has been assigned targets are the Packaging Directive (94/62/EC) as amended (2005/20/EC); End of Life Vehicles Directive (2000/53/EC); Batteries Directive (2006/66/EC); Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC); and the WEEE Directive (2012/19/EC). The due date for the majority of the targets associated with these Directives have lapsed and the EPA, as Ireland designated competent authority, states that all targets which have elapsed have been achieved, with the exception of one WEEE Directive target regarding the collection of ≥ 45% of WEEE equipment placed on the market.

The EPA is awaiting figures to evaluate if the target has been achieved. Ireland received a number of derogations for the Landfill Directive target and so has until December 2020 to reduce the biodegradable component of its municipal waste to 35% of 1995’s total biodegradable municipal waste produced, rather than 2016 as applied to the majority of Member States. This equates to 427,000 tonnes and according to EPA figures Ireland is well on track as approximately 190,000 tonnes of biodegradable waste was landfilled in 2018. In essence these Directives, and their associated targets, aim to ensure producers and consumers across Europe take more responsibility regarding the circulation of materials along the respective product life-cycles, and that valuable resources are not lost to disposal needlessly.