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July 26, 2017, 11:18 a.m.
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Ireland should phase out diesel and petrol vehicles, an advisory body on climate change has told the Government.
The Climate Change Advisory Council, an independent advisory group of 11 experts, rapped the Government on the knuckles today over its failure to deal with its climate change commitments and to put effective measures in place to make Ireland a low-carbon economy.
It is calling on the Government to introduce workable measures across all sectors of the economy so that the State will have an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.
In transport, a high emissions sector, the independent experts call for “phase-out of the internal combustion engine in private transport”. This call comes as Britain announced on Wednesday it would end the production of petrol and diesel cars from 2040. France made a similar announcement last week.
The council said Ireland is likely to miss its 2020 targets by a “substantial margin”, one of five EU members expected to fail to meet the UN-agreed goals.
It warns that the State must define and develop its approach to making agriculture carbon “neutral” and calls for farmers to move to lower emission fertilisers which it said would be “effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions”.
It recommends the removal of subsidies for the use of fossil fuels, particularly the price supports for electricity generated by peat. This should be done “as soon as possible”, while also providing supports for those affected by the changes.
The need to highlight awareness and engage the public to the dangers of climate change and the benefits of emissions reduction is also identified in the 70-page report.
The health benefits from the lowering of emissions should be a key factor in this engagement, the document indicates.The report notes the figures from Sustainable Energy Ireland that 75,000 homes a year would need energy upgrades to meet the 2020 targets and “factoring health and quality of life benefits” would make investment in such upgrades more attractive, it says.
Ireland’s high emissions rate in agriculture - 32 per cent of the total - is linked to methane and nitrous oxide produced by belching cattle and fertilisers. The advisory council describes it as “enteric fermentation in animals and manure management”.
Emissions from methane remain in the atmosphere for 12 years while the nitrous oxide emissions last for up to 120 years.
The council highlights the importance of entrepreneurial opportunities for diversification in the farming sector on land use and stresses the “urgent requirement” to address scientific gaps in the understanding of emissions and their removal.
Recommendations for sustainable forestry are also highlighted. The report notes Government policy to increase forestry coverage from 11 per cent currently at 768,000 hectares to 18 per cent by 2050 and it said “the possibility of greater ambition should be explored”.
Chairman of the advisory council Professor John FitzGerald said the key message of the report is that “it is essential for Government to commit to new, cost effective emissions reduction policies and measures”.
The Climate Change Advisory Council is an independent, statutory body was established by legislation in 2015 and formally set up in January 2016. Its role includes advising the Government on national policy relating to climate change.