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New Sectoral Carbon Ceilings Clarify 2022 Climate Action Plan




On the 28th of July 2022, the Government announced a series of carbon emission caps, broken down by sector, as part of the 2022 Climate Action Plan (the "Plan").
The announcement follows an EPA report published in July of this year, documenting a 4.7% rise in emissions in 2021 when compared to emission levels of the previous year. The ceilings limit the amount of carbon dioxide equivalents each sector can emit annually by the decade's end. The ceilings are the latest output of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 (the "Act"). The Act binds the Government to reduce carbon emissions by 51% by 2030 (when compared to 2018 emission levels) and to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The ceilings follow the Carbon Budget Agreement, which sets out the economy-wide emission limits in three five-year periods. The Carbon Budget, devised by the Climate Change Advisory Council and approved by the Oireachtas, is a policy aid that guides the government to achieving climate change targets and emission limits.
The plan specifically assigns targets to each sector which are ambitious in nature and will require immediate action to be taken on behalf of industrial organisations, service users and society as a whole. Notably, the plan proposes to implement various measures in order to ensure the success of the plan. For instance, Ministers will be held responsible before an Oireachtas committee if their Department exceeds these ceilings.  Ireland may be subject to fines from the EU should the country fail to meet broader EU targets. It is thought that these fines would be paid from the budget of the Minister whose sector failed to comply with the ceilings although we await clarity in respect of same.
The Electricity sector faces the highest reduction target (of 75%) to meet by 2030 in respect of emissions. In light of the above, there has been positive news for the Renewable Energy Sector with a commitment made by Government to provide additional resources for solar, off-shore wind, green hydrogen, agro-forestry and anaerobic digestion in order to further accelerate the reduction of overall economy-wide emissions. Stephen Wheeler, Managing Director of SSE Renewables, one of Ireland's largest electricity infrastructure operators has welcomed the announcement. "This is really positive news for offshore wind in Ireland with the Government announcing an increase in its target from 5GW to 7GW by 2030 – something SSE has been actively calling for to ensure Ireland is developing the clean energy infrastructure it needs for a net zero future."
Overall, feedback from the different sectors appears to be varied in response. Despite having the highest emission per sector in 2018 and the lowest percentage target for the reduction of emissions, this announcement has sparked discontent in the agricultural sector. The President of the Irish Farmers Association (the "IFA"), Tim Cullinan, has condemned the agreement, stating that "any attempt to undermine farmer's livelihoods or the viability of [the] sector, in order to achieve these targets, will be opposed vigorously by the IFA."
Meanwhile, the commerce sector supports the agreement with the Irish Business and Employers Confederation Director of Lobbying and Influence, Fergal O'Brien, praising the investment certainty that the agreement brings.
The 2022 Climate Action Plan is expected to be published by the end of the year.
Written by: Alice Normoyle, Craig Farrar and John Quigley

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