Long a Climate Laggard, Ireland Lays Path to Cut Emissions in Half by 2030

The Meenwaun Wind Farm in Boggaunreagh, Ireland.

The Meenwaun Wind Farm in Boggaunreagh, Ireland. Keith Arkins / Storm Windpower via Flickr

Ireland, which has historically lagged behind other European nations in tackling climate change, has set a course to slash emissions by 51 percent by 2030.

The plan is the result of negotiations that sought to balance cuts to agricultural emissions with cuts to emissions from transport, power, and other sectors. Agriculture accounts for 38 percent of Ireland’s carbon output, with belching sheep and cattle a significant source of heat-trapping methane. To halve its carbon footprint, Ireland would need to make deep cuts to emissions from farming, a daunting prospect, or draw down emissions from other sectors to compensate for the impact of livestock.

On Thursday, Ireland’s government announced its aim to cut emissions from agriculture by 25 percent and emissions from the electricity sector by 75 percent. It also set a target of reducing emissions from transport by 50 percent, commercial buildings by 45 percent, residential buildings by 40 percent, and industry by 35 percent, according to a plan set forth by the coalition government, comprised of the centrist Fianna Fail and Fine Gael parties and liberal Green Party.

“The targets that have been set today are going to be challenging for all sectors but they are also fair, appropriate and, importantly, based on what is achievable,” Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said in a statement. “I have every faith that we will, together, reduce our overall economy-wide carbon emissions, year by year.”

Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, released in November, calls for using grants, incentives, and taxes to mobilize 125 billion euros of public and private investment to, among other measures, upgrade half a million homes with better insulation or heat pumps, add one million electric cars to Irish roads, and generate 80 percent of Ireland’s power from renewables, largely wind.

Ireland’s Climate Advisory Council, an independent climate task force, called the new targets “an important milestone,” but also said they “will need to be revised upwards and monitored closely in the light of experience.”

The 2022 Climate Change Performance Index, released last year, credited Ireland’s climate aims but also warned of “risks associated with weak implementation across government.” Among 64 countries accounting for 90 percent of global emissions, Ireland ranked 46, according to the index, which classified the country as “low performing.” Among 27 European countries, Ireland ranked 22.


How Eating Seaweed Can Help Cows to Belch Less Methane