President Michael D Higgins has signed the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 into law.
The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, has welcomed the move.
He stated that Ireland is now on a “legally binding path” to net-Zero emissions no later than 2050 and a 51% reduction in emissions by the end of this decade.
The act provides the framework for Ireland to meet its international and EU climate commitments and become a “leader” in addressing climate change.
Climate Act signed into law
Minister Ryan said:
“Today is a landmark day, as we turn climate ambition into law and set out on a journey to net-zero emissions.”
“The extreme weather events around the world over the past month have shown us all that we must act quickly, to protect ourselves and our planet.”
He acknowledged that the immediate target of halving emissions by 2030 is “challenging”.
He stated it is also an opportunity to transform the economy, create new jobs, protect the environment and build a greener and fairer future.
“We will all need to work together to achieve this, in renewable energy, active and sustainable travel, in business, agriculture and across government. But the signal we are sending today is that now is the time for action.”
What is next?
The next stage of the process will be preparing regulations on carbon accounting, in consultation with the Climate Change Advisory Council and consistent with the Paris Agreement and EU rules.
The production of carbon budgets by the Climate Change Advisory Council will follow this. These carbon budgets will be presented to the Oireachtas and approved by government.
The government will then set sectoral emissions ceilings determining how each sector of the economy will contribute to the achievement of the budgets.
The government will publish the Climate Action Plan 2021 in early autumn. It will set out measures to take to reach targets in each sector of the economy.
Furthermore, it will also appoint three more members of the Climate Change Advisory Council as provided for in the act.
Key highlights of the act
- Embeds the process of setting binding and ambitious emissions-reductions targets in law;
- Provides for a national climate objective, which commits to pursue and achieve no later than 2050, the transition to a climate-resilient, biodiversity-rich, environmentally sustainable and climate-neutral economy;
- Also, provides that the first two five-year carbon budgets proposed by the Climate Change Advisory Council should equate to a total reduction of 51% over the period to 2030, relative to a baseline of 2018
- The role of the Climate Change Advisory Council has been strengthened. The will enable it to propose carbon budgets to the minister which match our ambition and international obligations
- The government must adopt carbon budgets that are consistent with the Paris agreement and other international obligations. All forms of greenhouse gas emissions, including biogenic methane, will be included in the carbon budgets. Carbon removals will be taken into account in setting budgets. However, it is up to government to decide on the trajectories for different sectors
- The government will determine, following consultation, how to apply the carbon budget across the relevant sectors, and what each sector will contribute in a given five-year period;
- Actions for each sector will be detailed in the Climate Action Plan, which must be updated annually;
- Government ministers will be responsible for achieving the legally binding targets for their own sectoral area. Each minister will account for their performance towards sectoral targets and actions before an Oireachtas Committee each year;
- Local authorities must prepare individual Climate Action Plans. This will include both mitigation and adaptation measures and will be updated every five years. Local authority development plans must be aligned with their climate action plan;
- Public bodies will be obliged to take account of climate action plans in the performance of their functions.