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 to 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 a climate-neutral continent by 2050 while also transforming the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive circular economy that’s fair and inclusive for every individual and region.
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.
It will also pave the way towards more affordable, secure and sustainable energy. Russia’s military attack on Ukraine caused energy supply problems that highlighted Europe’s need to rapidly transition to clean energy sources.
The European Commission has presented the REPowerEU plan to deal with volatile energy prices, gas storage issues and to make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
The EU is 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.
RepowerEU - affordable, secure and sustainable energy for Europe
EU Actions in Ireland
The European Commission is working with Ireland to help achieve common climate change ambitions and has been instrumental in supporting and encouraging the Irish Government to take actions, such as protecting Irish peat bog habitats.
Ireland’s raised bogs are among the world’s oldest but only 1% now remain after years of land reclamation and turf-cutting, but action is being taken.
From 2011-2015 work on restoring some 685 hectares of raised bogs 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 was also invested between 2016-2021 in The Living Bog Project at Clara, Co Offaly, and 2022 saw the official launch of LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature -a €20 million, nine-year EU-funded project to conserve and protect blanket bog habitat in northwest Ireland.
Improvements across more than 9,900 hectares of peatlands in the midlands through the €10 million, 7-year LIFE Integrated Project, Peatlands and People, is backed with EU funding too.
The Commission is also proposing rules to empower consumers in Ireland and throughout the EU for the green transition.
The rules will give citizens the right to details about the durability and reparability of products while so-called ‘greenwashing’ - where a company gives misleading information on how eco-friendly its products are – will be banned under the proposals.
New rules to make almost all physical goods on the EU market more environmentally friendly, recyclable and energy efficient throughout their lifecycle have been proposed as well.
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 National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) states that potential funding from EU sources to Ireland between 2021 and 2027 amounts up to €13.3 billion, much of which can help with the country’s transition to a low-carbon economy.
Ireland’s €989 million Recovery and Resilience Plan for responding to the Covid pandemic crisis will also help with the green transition. Almost 42% of the funding will support climate investments and reforms including €164 million for the upgrade of Cork commuter rail to encourage a shift from private car usage, and €155 million for energy efficiency measures in residential and public buildings throughout Ireland.
Funding through the Commission’s five EU Missions is another way of supporting the green transition. Dublin and Cork are among the cities participating in Mission Cities, which aims to create 100 climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030.
The Cities Mission will receive €360 million of Horizon Europe funding covering the period 2022/23 to start innovation paths towards climate neutrality.
LIFE funding for Ireland
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 €5.4 billion LIFE programme for 2021-2027 includes funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
Examples of LIFE funding in Ireland include:
The Corncrake LIFE project that aims to improve the conservation status in Ireland of the Corncrake across eight sites;
The LIFE EMERALD project to improve air quality information and raise awareness around the topic of Irish air quality;
The AranLIFE project, which worked with local farmers to support traditional island farming practices and help maintain the significant natural and cultural heritage of the Aran Islands;
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.
What Ireland is doing to tackle climate change
Nearly a third of Irish respondents (31%) to aEurobarometer survey published in 2021 considered climate change to be the single most serious problem facing the world.
Over nine in ten respondents in Ireland (94%) also agreed that the EU economy should be climate-neutral by 2050.
However, the 2020 European Semester Country Report for Ireland showed the country is lagging behind in tackling climate change, with greenhouse gas emissions in transport, building and agriculture sectors high and on a rising trend.
Ireland’s 2021 Climate Action Plan sets a roadmap for putting the country on a more sustainable path. The Action Plan 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.
- Agriculture was responsible for 37.1% of Ireland's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020.
- The transport sector represents 17.9% and has been the fastest growing source of GHG emissions, showing a 100% increase between 1990 and 2020.
- Despite the economic impact of Covid-19, GHG emissions in Ireland decreased by only 3.6% in 2020, demonstrating the scale of the decarbonisation challenge for Ireland over the coming decade.
- Emissions from Irish power generation and industrial companies increased by 15% (two million tonnes) in 2021. This compares with an increase of approximately 9.1% across Europe.
- 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.
Latest environment news
The European Commission is calling on Ireland to take action to halt the continued cutting of peat within Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) designated to conserve raised bogs and blanket bogs under the Habitats Directive.
The Commission is proposing a new legislative tool and a European Gas Demand Reduction Plan, to reduce gas use in Europe by 15% until next spring.
The 2022 Strategic Foresight Report, published today by the European Commission, identifies ten key areas of action with the objective of maximising synergies and consistency between our climate and digital ambitions.