Ireland’s climate targets and the importance of renewable energy
Sarah Rigney
Staff Writer

Here we delve into how the Government’s Climate Action Plan will help us to become a more sustainable nation and meet EU targets.

In recent years, climate change has been more topical than ever before, and most people are putting in a conscious effort to become more environmentally friendly.

To reduce our carbon footprint, we must take necessary steps to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, particularly for the generation of electricity, and look at renewable alternatives

Last year, the Government set out an ambitious plan to tackle climate change in its Climate Action Plan and detailed targets to hit by 2030. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and climate experts have recently expressed concerns that targets won’t be met.

Just last week the Government reported it did not implement more than half of the measures in its climate action plan during the second quarter of the year, sparking more uncertainty.

We decided to take a closer look at the Government’s Climate Action Plan and its key targets, such as increasing renewable energy generation. 

The Climate Action Plan

In November 2021, the Government released the Climate Action Plan, which sets out the measures and actions that need to be taken to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Ireland.

The Government has an objective to deliver a 51% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and aims to reach net zero by no later than 2050. 

However, by December 2022, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) revealed that our carbon dioxide emissions are moving in the wrong direction. In fact, emissions rose by 5.4% per cent in 2021, when the plan was for them to fall by 4.8%. The SEAI stated that a rebound in traffic on the roads and an increase in the use of coal and oil in electricity generation had affected CO2 levels with emissions returning to pre-Covid levels.

To achieve the goals outlined in the Climate Action Plan, significant investment is needed. The Government will support the necessary changes through the €165 billion National Development Plan. 

Key aspects of the Climate Action Plan

1. Electricity and renewable energy

Ireland has experienced great success so far with onshore wind generation and has ventured into solar energy as well. According to Wind Energy Ireland, in 2022 wind energy provided 34% of Ireland's electricity needs and helped consumers avoid paying €2 billion for gas.

A variety of targets and measures have been set out to accelerate our generation of renewable energy and lessen the impact of electricity production:

Renewable targets: 

  • The plan sets out a target to produce 80% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030, while phasing-out coal and peat-fired electricity generation. 
  • The Government recently increased the target for offshore wind capacity from 5 GW (gigawatt) to 7 GW by 2030, as well.

Generation opportunity: 

  • The micro-generation scheme will allow homeowners to generate their own electricity via solar panels, and sell it back to the national grid.
  • There will be a separate small-scale generator scheme created for farmers, businesses and communities to generate electricity and sell to the grid.

Reduce emissions: Achieve a reduction in electricity emissions of between 62% and 81% by 2030.

Interconnectors: Deliver three new transmission grid connections or interconnectors to Northern Ireland, Great Britain, and the EU, including the Celtic Interconnector.

Data centres: Review data centre strategy to ensure the sector supports renewables and emissions targets.

2. Homes and buildings 

The Climate Action Plan puts emphasis on retrofitting and home energy improvements:

Retrofitting targets: There’s a goal to retrofit 500,000 homes nationwide by 2030. Retrofits will be made more affordable and accessible by blending low-cost home improvement loans with SEAI grants.

Upskilling: New training centres will be opened to upskill workers in retrofitting.

Heat pumps: The use of electric heat pumps or other low carbon technology will be promoted in new and existing residential and commercial buildings.

New builds: The use of fossil fuels for space and water heating in all new buildings will be phased out.

Decarbonise: Introduce a programme to decarbonise the heating and cooling sectors by 2050.

3. Transport

In Ireland, emissions from the transport sector accounted for 17.9% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. Passenger cars alone were responsible for approximately 54% of road transport emissions in 2020.

In order to combat the negative impact of transport emissions, the Government outlined a number of targets in the Climate Action Plan:

Sustainable travel journeys: The plan aims for 500,000 daily extra walking, cycling and public transport journeys per day by 2030. This will be through projects such as BusConnects and Connecting Ireland, the expansion of rail services, and improved cycling and walking infrastructure.

Building new public transport: Public transport and public fleets will be upgraded to low emission alternatives, with 1,500 electric buses being introduced by 2030.

Alternative fuels: The use of biofuels in transport, such as biodiesel, bioethanol, and biomethane, will be increased. The Government also hopes to explore the use of green hydrogen energy to support decarbonisation.

Electric vehicles: Motorists and companies will be encouraged to make the switch to electric, with the Government providing a range of grants to help with the transition. The Government hopes to increase the number of EVs to around 1 million by 2030.

4. Agriculture: 

In 2020, the agri-food sector accounted for almost 7% of modified gross national income and it’s undeniably one of Ireland’s biggest markets. However, the farming sector is also one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide.

There are a variety of targets to be met by the agriculture sector:

Reduced emissions: After much debate, it was recently decided that the agriculture sector will have to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030. This will include an increase in organic farming and reduced chemical nitrogen fertiliser use.

Livestock: There are aims to improve animal feeding and breeding through research and funding. This will result in new food additives being trialled and beef animals produced that are lower emitters of methane.

Land: There will be an increase in organically farmed land almost five-fold to 350,000 hectares

Diversification: Review diversification opportunities for income and land use for farmers. 

The Circular Economy Strategy

The Government has also recently released the Circular Economy Strategy, which aims to keep materials, components, and products in use in the economy for as long as possible.

Ireland has a circulatory rate of just 1.6%, lagging far behind the EU average of 11.9%. 

The Circular Economy Strategy aims to:

  • Reduce food waste by 50% by 2030
  • Ensure all plastic packaging is reusable or recyclable by 2030
  • Cease coal exploration by ending the issuing of new licences for the exploration and mining of coal, lignite and oil shale

Check out our other environment articles

If you found this article interesting, why not have a read of our other articles on the environment and renewable energy?

Keep an eye on our blog and guide pages to learn about the latest developments and news.

How to reduce your energy usage and save money

If you’re looking to reduce how much energy you consume at home, here are 15 ways to use less electricity and save money in the process, and 10 ways to heat your home for less.

You can also save significantly by switching to a new energy supplier. 

At it’s quick and easy to switch to a more affordable energy deal. With our free comparison and switching tool, you can review the best deals against your current supplier.

Learn the ins and outs of the comparison and switching process in our Quickstart Guide.

If you’re trying to cut the cost of other everyday bills, try out our other comparison tools, which can help you save on broadband, insurance costs, and banking fees.

Have any questions?

Do you have any questions about Ireland's climate targets? If so, let us know!

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