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Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill (2021)

The Government published the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill (2021) during March and it is currently progressing through the Houses of the Oireachtas.   

The Bill provides the legal basis for the approval of plans by the Government in relation to climate change for the purpose of “pursuing the transition to a climate resilient, biodiversity rich and climate neutral economy by the end of the year 2050” (referred to as the “national climate objective”).  It mentions a number of mechanisms to meet this objective, including carbon budgets, sectoral emissions ceilings, a climate action plan (annual update to 2019 Climate Action Plan), a national long term climate action strategy (once every five years), and a national adaptation framework.

Carbon budgets will be prepared for five-year periods, with the first budget for the period 2021 to 2025.  The Bill states that the first two carbon budgets shall provide for a reduction of 51% in the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (with 2018 as the baseline).  Sectoral emissions ceilings (“the maximum amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are permitted in different sectors of the economy during a budget period”) will also be set.  Finally, the ceilings for each sector can be different but the final 2030 objective remains a 51% reduction.

The “special economic and social role of agriculture, including with regard to the distinct characteristics of biogenic methane” is recognised in the Bill, but what this means in terms of setting carbon budgets and the agricultural emissions ceiling is not stated.

In summary, the Bill puts Ireland on the path to net zero emissions by 2050, and to achieve a 51 per cent reduction in emissions by the end of this decade.  It will mean change for Irish farming, the exact nature of the change will become clearer in the next number of months.

The full text of the Bill is available here.