Ireland’s clean, fresh air, lush green landscapes and stunning coastlines are famous throughout the world.
However, we are now facing a global crisis that means our scenic environment is under threat and can no longer be taken for granted. Climate change is the greatest challenge of our times and urgent action is required to prevent irreversible damage to our planet.
Tackling climate change is one of the European Commission’s top priorities and the European Green Deal is its ambitious plan to transform Europe into the first climate-neutral continent.
European Green Deal
The European Green Deal includes key policies aimed at ambitiously cutting emissions, preserving Europe’s natural environment and investing in cutting-edge research and innovation to tackle climate change.
It sets out an achievable roadmap that will ensure the EU's economy becomes sustainable by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas that will result in economic growth and jobs.
The Green Deal commits Europe to becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050 while also transforming the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy that’s fair and inclusive for every individual and region.
We are determined to succeed for the sake of this planet and life on it – for Europe's natural heritage, for biodiversity, for our forests and our seas. By showing the rest of the world how to be sustainable and competitive, we can convince other countries to move with us.
The Green Deal will play a major role in leading the EU out of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis by kick-starting recovery, protecting jobs and creating sustainable growth.
The EU is already a global leader in the fight against climate change and has put in place legislation covering all sectors of the economy to cut greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the Paris Agreement.
However, many challenges have to be overcome if Europe is to achieve its Green Deal goals, and each Member State has a role to play. The 2020 European Semester Country Report for Ireland shows that the country has so far lagged behind in tackling climate change, with greenhouse gas emissions in transport, building and agriculture sectors high and on a rising trend.
What Ireland is doing to tackle climate change
Ireland’s 2019 Climate Action Plan acknowledges that the country is way off course when it comes to reducing greenhouse gases, but it includes over 180 actions aimed at reversing the trend.
Ireland is currently developing a 2021 Climate Action Plan, which feeds into the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP). All Member States have published NECPs to show how they intend to meet the EU’s climate targets for 2030 and put Europe on the road to climate neutrality by 2050.
While Ireland has so far underachieved in meeting its greenhouse gases targets, a Eurobarometer survey published in 2020 found that protecting the environment is important for 93% of Irish people and that they perceive climate change and environmental degradation as key issues facing the EU.
The European Commission is working with Ireland to help achieve common climate change ambitions and has been instrumental in encouraging the Irish Government to take actions, such as protecting Irish peat bog habitats.
Ireland is responding, and from 2011-2015 work on restoring some 685 hectares of raised bogs on 17 Coillte owned sites across seven counties was undertaken as part of the Demonstrating Best Practice in Raised Bog Restoration in Ireland project, supported with EU funding.
EU funding is also invested in The Living Bog Project at Clara, Co Offaly. It’s Ireland’s largest single bog restoration project, and it will see an area of raised bog the equivalent in size to 7,000 Croke Parks brought back to life.
The European Commission Representation in Ireland has compiled a collection of 12 environmental success stories called "Keeping Ireland Green" that highlights some of the positive climate change actions taking place around the country.
Funding Ireland's transition
Becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 requires significant investment from both the public and private sectors. The European Green Deal Investment Plan creates a framework to facilitate this and stimulate sustainable investments of at least €1 trillion over the next decade.
The Just Transition Mechanism (JTM) will also provide targeted support to regions and sectors that are most affected by the transition towards the green economy.
A European Commission assessment of Ireland’s NECP in 2020 stated that potential funding from EU sources to Ireland between 2021 and 2027 amount up to €13.3 billion, much of which can help with the country’s transition to a low-carbon economy.
EU funds available to all EU Member States that may be utilised for the implementation of National Energy and Climate Plans include:
- €91 billion from Horizon Europe;
- €9.1 billion from InvestEU;
- €29.9 billion from Connecting Europe Facility;
- €360 billion from the Recovery and Resilience Facility;
- €0.9 billion from the Technical Support Instrument;
- €5.4 billion from the LIFE programme;
- €8.2 billion from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development;
- €140 billion from the Innovation Fund.
LIFE is the EU's flagship funding programme for nature, biodiversity protection and the fight against climate change and it contributed around €90 million to 67 Irish projects between 1992 and 2020. The LIFE programme for 2021-2027 is due to be adopted in 2021 and it will include funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
Examples of LIFE funding in Ireland include:
The LIFE Atlantic Crex project that aims to deliver a 20% increase in the corncrake population by 2024;
The AranLIFE project, which worked with local farmers to support traditional island farming practices and help maintain the Aran Islands’ significant natural and cultural heritage;
The WISER LIFE project that transformed an old 1960s civic heating building in Ballymun, Dublin, into a new educational and cultural centre that focuses on sustainability and recycling.
The LIFE EMERALD project to improve air quality information and raise awareness around the topic of Irish air quality.
Statement by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, on the role of the European Green Deal in the economic recovery
- Agriculture was responsible for 35.3% of Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. Main sources of emissions included methane emitted by cattle and sheep, fertilisers, manures, and diesel for agricultural machinery.
- Fishermen in Ireland have hauled nearly 400 tonnes of marine litter in their fishing nets since 2015 under the Fishing for Litter campaign. The initiative is supported under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
- Ireland is one of 187 parties to have ratified the Paris Agreement which commits to limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.
- Provisional estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the period 1990-2019 indicate that Ireland will exceed its 2019 annual limits, making it highly unlikely that overall 2020 targets will be met, regardless of the impact of COVID on emissions.
- In November 2020, over 25,500 electric vehicles were being driven on Irish roads. The target is for this to increase to 181,000 electric vehicles by 2025.
Latest environment news
The European Commission has unveiled its plans to make the EU's climate, energy, land use, transport and taxation policies fit for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
The Commission is proposing a new approach for a sustainable blue economy in the EU for the industries and sectors related to oceans, seas and coasts.
The European Commission wants to have 25% of agricultural land under organic farming by 2030, as well as to increase organic aquaculture.