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 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.
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.
Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President
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 has caused energy supply problems that highlight Europe’s need to rapidly transition to clean energy sources.
The European Commission’s new REPowerEU plan includes measures 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.
Latest Green Deal proposals
New rules to ensure cleaner air and water are being proposed by the European Commission. While air quality in Ireland is generally good, according to the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) there are localised issues which lead to poor air quality.
Air pollution contributes to tens of thousands of premature deaths every year and the proposed revision of Ambient Air Quality Directives will see regular reviews of air quality standards to reassess them in line with latest scientific evidence.
Interim 2030 air quality standards will be set, putting the EU on a trajectory to achieve zero pollution for air by 2050 at the latest.
The revision of Air Quality Directives will also ensure that people suffering health damages from air pollution will have the right to be compensated in the case of a violation of EU air quality rules.
The Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive is being revised too so Europeans can benefit from cleaner rivers, lakes, groundwaters and seas, while wastewater treatment will be more cost-effective.
The European 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.
Consumer rights and ‘greenwashing’ ban
Proposals on sustainable products
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.
A number of measures to protect bogs have been introduced by the Irish authorities, including compensation to encourage peat and turf cutters to stop this damaging practice. However, cutting has continued and enforcement action appears to have stalled.
EU funding has supported several raised bog restoration projects but this work is not enough to reverse the damage still being done due to the precarious state of these priority habitats.
In September 2022, the European Commission called on Ireland to take action to stop the cutting of peat within Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). If Ireland fails to respond to the call, the Commission could decide to refer Ireland to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Commission previously sent Ireland a formal notice and a reasoned opinion on protecting raised bogs back in 2011.
The European Commission is responsible for ensuring EU legislation is applied in each Member State and has previously launched infringement procedures against Ireland over breaches of environmental law.
For example, a landslide during excavation work for Derrybrien Wind Farm caused extensive environmental damage, resulting in the Commission taking Ireland to court in 2008.
The EU's Court of Justice found that Ireland had failed to carry out an environmental impact assessment for the wind farm and imposed a one-off financial sanction of €5 million and ordered that daily penalties of €15,000 be paid until such time as the breaches were rectified.
In September 2022 the Commission also called on Ireland and ten other Member States to introduce national legislation to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products, as required by the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive.
Commission calls on Ireland to halt peat-cutting
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 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.
Mission Cities will receive €360 million of Horizon Europe funding covering the period 2022/23 to start innovation paths towards climate neutrality.
Explainer: European Green Deal Investment Plan and Just Transition Mechanism
Ireland’s recovery and resilience plan
LIFE funding for Ireland
LIFE is the EU's flagship funding programme for nature, biodiversity protection and the fight against climate change. 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 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 Living Bog project that saw restoration work taking place at 12 bogs across seven counties;
- The €20 million LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature, a 9-year EU-funded project to conserve and protect blanket bog habitat in the north west of Ireland;
- The 7-year €10 million LIFE Integrated Project, Peatlands and People, that’s making improvements across more than 9,900 hectares of peatlands in the midlands.
Successful Irish LIFE programmes
What Ireland is doing to tackle climate change
Nearly a third of Irish respondents (31%) to a Eurobarometer 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 2022 European Semester Country Report for Ireland stated that Ireland needs to make major progress this decade on meeting its climate objectives.
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.
Climate Action: What Ireland is doing
Ireland’s National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030
- 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
- News article
Six schools perform with distinction during EU Model Council Debate on the EU’s Renewable Energy Transition
Scoil Muire agus Pádraig from Mayo has won first place at the 2023 Model Council of the European Union debating competition. Second place went to Christ King Secondary School from Cork, and third place to Deansrath Community College from Dublin.
- News article
Consumer protection in the green transition: Creating a right to repair and tackling greenwashing
The European Commission has adopted a new proposal on common rules promoting the repair of goods, which will result in savings for consumers and support the objectives of the European Green Deal by reducing waste, among others.
- News article
Net-Zero Industry Act: Making the EU the home of clean technologies manufacturing and green jobs
The European Commission has proposed the Net-Zero Industry Act to scale up manufacturing of clean technologies in the EU and make sure the EU is well-equipped for the clean-energy transition.
- News article
Commission proposes reform of the EU electricity market design to boost renewables, better protect consumers and enhance industrial competitiveness
The European Commission has proposed to reform the EU's electricity market design to accelerate a surge in renewables and the phase-out of gas, make consumer bills less dependent on volatile fossil fuel prices, and make industry cleaner and more competitive.