Minister Hogan announces Government agreement on national climate policy and legislation

Published on Wednesday, 23 Apr 2014

Minister Hogan announces Government agreement on national climate policy and legislation


Statement by Minister Phil Hogan

Publication today (23rd April 2014) of the National Policy Position, together with the final Heads of the Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Bill, represents another major milestone in the Government Programme for the development of national climate policy and legislation which I announced in January 2012, and which reflects:
• our collective maturity in acknowledging and responding to the threat of climate change,
• our responsibility in supporting on-going efforts by the EU to mobilise an effective global response through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and
• our positive outlook towards a low-carbon future that is both sustainable and successful.

Many people have contributed to the substantial body of work that has been done over the course of the policy development programme.  In particular, I want to acknowledge the comprehensive policy analysis reports from the Secretariat to the National Economic and Social Council, the report from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht on foot of the open debate which they facilitated, and the input from many stakeholders and members of the general public.

Although we have reached the end of this particular policy development programme, the debate will continue – we are only at the early stages of a long and hugely challenging but very exciting journey.  As was the case over the last two years or so, the on-going evolution of national climate policy will be progressed on a transparent and inclusive basis, continuing the useful structured dialogue on the range of views that exists across Irish society, inter alia, through the institutional arrangements provided for in the General Scheme of the Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Bill.

The National Policy Position brings clarity and certainty to the national low-carbon transition objective for 2050, which is crucially important for planning and investment by Irish business, as well as attracting potential new investors both here in Ireland and from abroad. 
Policy must, of course, be explicit for the purposes of proposing and enacting primary legislation – form must follow function and there can be no ambiguity.  The National Policy Position brings clarity to –
• the overall transition objective,
• the context for that objective – including commitment to our existing and future obligations under EU and international law, and
• the process through which the national transition agenda will be progressed. 

Both the National Policy Position and the General Scheme of the Bill are unequivocal in re-affirming Ireland’s commitment to compliance with existing and future obligations of the State under EU and international law.  However, of equal importance is the fact that the national transition agenda is directly relevant to the challenges and opportunities of a low-carbon future from a national perspective.  Looking ahead, to 2020 and beyond, our economy must be low-carbon and climate resilient, but it must also focus on pursuing competitiveness in the emerging global green economy.  Low-carbon, climate resilience and economic competitiveness are not mutually exclusive objectives – we can be, and we will be, successful in a low-carbon future if we get our policy right.

I believe the National Policy Position published today reflects where the balance lies at this time in terms of the views across the spectrum of stakeholders and society generally, the environmental, social and economic considerations to which we must have regard, and a level of mitigation ambition for 2050 that is both ambitious and realistic.  We already have a progressive position on climate protection and we have consistently supported EU leadership on climate policy, both in relation to framing the internal agenda and to the positive influence which the EU seeks to bring to the wider international agenda under the UN Convention. 

However, we cannot ignore the fact that we have a long way to go in terms of recovering from the recent economic and banking crises.  It is essential that we balance our economic and environmental objectives.  Transition is about fundamental change and our position will have to be kept under review in light of developments at national, EU and wider international level, as well as having regard to developments in technology and science. 

The evolution of national climate policy will be an iterative process, based on adoption by Government of a series of national plans over the period to 2050.  A National Climate Change Adaptation Framework is already in place since 2012, and I expect to initiate and open consultation on Ireland’s first National Low-Carbon Roadmap, which will address the greenhouse gas mitigation side of the agenda, in the second half of this year.

The IPCC Working Group III Report, which was published last weekend, states that global greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 41% to 72% relative to 2010 levels by 2050 in order to ensure that there is a likely probability of restricting the increase in global temperature to below 2°C.  Every country must play its part and the National Policy Position is a major milestone in Ireland’s contribution to an effective global response. 

The National Policy Position sets out the level of ambition which will guide Ireland’s transition process across the four key sectors, with the ambition level for the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors expressed in aggregate rather than as individual sectoral objectives, to ensure that it can be achieved at minimum cost. The planned iterative process will allow Departments and Government collectively to establish the most cost-efficient option(s) at a point in time.  Inevitably, the cost of some technologies will reduce over time, and the least-cost transition advice and trajectory will evolve accordingly.  I firmly believe that the agreed level of ambition set out in the National Policy Position will allow us to make a fair contribution to overall global emissions reductions in a manner that is reflective of our unique circumstances.

On the issue of our unique circumstances, a key issue in the evolution of national policy will be the specific challenge we face in Ireland in relation to greenhouse gas emissions and removals related to agriculture and land use, including forestry.  Within the EU, we have a distinct greenhouse gas emissions profile due to a number of factors, including the high share of emissions associated with ruminant livestock in the agriculture sector.  This situation has not arisen because we have an inefficient agriculture sector – on the contrary, we have a carbon-efficient agriculture and food sector.  It is simply due to the scale of our agriculture and food industry relative to our overall economy.

A way forward must be found, not only at a national level but within the EU and at a wider international level under the UN Climate Convention, that addresses the climate impact of the agriculture and land use sector as a whole – livestock and land – without compromising existing and potential future capacity for sustainable food production.  In seeking a more complete and better way forward for the sector, I want to be absolutely clear that every sector must play its part in the national transition agenda.  There can be no exceptions, there are no exceptions and there will be no exceptions!

Climate policy on the agriculture and land use sector cannot be addressed in isolation of other major policy priorities, such as the global challenge of sustainable food production for a population of 9 billion people by 2050.  We must find the optimal balance between emissions and removals within the agriculture and land use sector, equally taking into account the policy balance across priorities such as the need to maximise sustainable food production.

At EU level and in the international negotiations under the UN Convention, Ireland has made clear its commitment to a coherent and cost-effective approach to the twin challenges of climate protection and sustainable food production to meet growing global demand.  A great deal of technical work and political engagement on policy lies ahead, both within the EU and in the international negotiations, and it is likely to be some time, possibly a number of years, before any substantive clarity emerges on an agreed international way forward on the agriculture and land-use sector.  Ireland will contribute through its work on an approach to carbon neutrality, and our policy will be kept under review in the light of developments.

In conclusion, I strongly believe that the National Policy Position and the General Scheme of the Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Bill reflects where the balance of considerations lies at this time.  Those considerations will, of course, change as we make progress on actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change and that is why national policy will be kept under review and will evolve on an iterative basis. 

1. Minister’s Statement
2. National Climate Policy Position
3. General Scheme of the Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Bill
4. RIA




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