Missing its CO2 targets could cost Ireland between €9bn by 2030.
The European Commission has found that the State’s climate plans fall far short of the level of ambiton required to put Ireland on a path to achieve its 2030 targets.
The Commission’s 2019 Country Report for Ireland states that we are “falling further behind” our EU compatriots in decarbonising the economy, raising “health, climate and environmental concerns”.
The report points to “severe challenges” in tackling rising emissions in transport, agriculture, energy and the built environment.
In 2016, emissions increased by over 2.5 per cent in agriculture, four per cent in transport and six per cent in the energy sector – primarily due to an increase in the use of gas for electricity generation.
The Government needs to quickly define “policy and investment needs to ensure environmentally and socially sustainable development” in line with EU principles, the report states.
The Commission’s analysis, however, indicates that there is “no signs yet that a reversal in trends is to be expected” with both our 2020 and 2030 targets set to be missed.
The Government has accepted that we will fail to meet our 2020 target, with the Minister for Climate Action, Richard Bruton TD stating that current projections put us 95 per cent off target.
He said that it has “never been more clear” that we need a change across government, starting with an all of Government plan to set out actions for every government department and body.
Mr Bruton’s plan should be underpinned by policies and investment that will enable Ireland to reach its 2030 and 2050 targets, the Commission said, with current policy falling short.
Policy objectives outlined in the National Mitigation Plan, the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan do not go far enough to tackle growing emissions, the report states.
In addition, the draft National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) released last December “does not clarify investment needs until 2030”, the Commission found.
“The final NECP, to be finalised by the end of 2019, should include new national objectives for 2030 as well as concrete policies and measures across the energy and climate areas,” the report states.
Without further action now, compliance with EU commitments will become “increasingly challenging and could become costly”, the report finds, due to a “lack of early action” to meet our targets.
In order to try and meet our 2030 emissions reduction target, Ireland will need to purchase carbon credits “on a large scale during 2021-2030” from other EU members that have exceeded their targets.
“The lack of progress will make the challenge of meeting Ireland’s EU obligations that more difficult, while also increasing the cost of future action,” the Commission report states.
Mr Bruton has previously said that Ireland will need to spend between €6m and €13m on carbon credits to try and bridge the gap to our 2020 target. This will bring total State spending on emissions allowances and renewable credits to €120m since 2007.
The Institute of International and European Affairs estimates that missing our targets could generate costs of between €3bn and €6bn for both compliance periods up to 2020 and 2030.
Ireland is also likely to miss its 2020 target of achieving 16 per cent of energy from renewable sources by between 1.7 to 3.7 per cent due to uncertainty with the future of support schemes and “lengthy and complex consenting, planning and grid access procedures”.
There have been voluminous headlines, photos, and video describing eruptions on Hawaii’s Kilaueua in 2018, and while they were visually impressive, when it comes to potentially climate altering sulfur dioxide, those eruptions pale in comparison to another Pacific volcano.
NASA Earth observatory writes:
While Kilauea dominated headlines last year, the largest explosive eruption of 2018 occurred 5,600 kilometers (3,500 miles) to the southwest on Ambae, a volcanic island in Vanuatu. The Manaro Voui volcano spewed at least 400,000 tons of sulfur dioxide into the upper troposphere and stratosphere during its most active phase in July, and a total of 600,000 tons in 2018. That was three times the amount released from all combined eruptions in 2017.
The map above shows stratospheric sulfur dioxide concentrations on July 28, 2018, as detected by the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS) on the Suomi-NPP satellite. The volcano on Ambae (also known as Aoba) was near the peak of its sulfur emissions at the time. For perspective, emissions from Hawaii’s Kilauea and the Sierra Negra volcano in the Galapagos are shown on the same day. The plot below shows the July-August spike in emissions from Ambae.
“With the Kilauea and Galapagos volcanoes, you had continuous emissions of sulfur dioxide over time, but Ambae was more explosive,” said Simon Carn, professor of volcanology at Michigan Tech. “There was a giant pulse in late July, and then it dispersed.”
During a series of eruptions at Ambae in 2018, volcanic ash blackened the sky, buried crops, and destroyed homes. Acid rain turned the rainwater—the island’s main source of drinking water—cloudy and “metallic, like sour lemon juice,” said New Zealand volcanologist Brad Scott. Over the course of the year, the island’s population of 11,000 was forced to evacuate several times.
The OMPS instruments on the Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20 satellites contain downward-looking sensors, which can map volcanic clouds and measure sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by observing reflected ultraviolet light. SO2 and other gases (such as ozone) each have a spectral absorption signature, or unique fingerprint, that OMPS can measure and quantify.
“Once we know the SO2 amount, we put it on a map and monitor where that cloud moves,” said Nickolay Krotkov, a atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The maps, which are produced within three hours of a satellite overpass, are used by volcanic ash advisory centers to predict the movement of volcanic clouds and to reroute aircraft, if necessary.
At the peak of the Ambae eruption, a powerful burst of energy pushed gas and ash into the upper troposphere and stratosphere. The natural-color image above was acquired on July 27, 2018, by the the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi NPP.
SO2 is short lived in the atmosphere, but once it penetrates the stratosphere, it can combine with water vapor to make sulfuric acid aerosols. Such particles can last much longer—weeks, months or even years—depending on the altitude and latitude of injection, Carn said.
In extreme cases, like the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, the tiny aerosol particles can scatter so much sunlight that they cool Earth’s surface below. “We think to have a measurable climate impact, the eruption needs to produce 5 to 10 million tons of SO2,” Carn said. The Ambae eruption was too small to cause such cooling.
“This wasn’t huge, it wasn’t Pinatubo,” Carn said. “But it was the biggest one of the year.”
Germany continues to try and tie its economy in knots in the name of a naive and misplaced belief in mandatory ‘climate action’, as this Clean Energy Wire report shows.
The Climate Action Law proposed by Germany’s environment ministry is “a planned economy approach” that could “paralyse the country without making progress on climate action,” Georg Nüßlein, deputy parliamentary group leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU alliance said in an interview with the Tageszeitung (taz).
Adding to previous conservative criticism of the initiative, Nüßlein said the law proposed by Social Democrat (SPD) Environment Minister Svenja Schulze didn’t allow ministries enough “flexibility” on how to achieve emissions cuts and amounted to “passing the buck to someone else by setting targets.”
He argued that the only way to bring down emissions was to “support innovation” and that “coercion and abstinence,” would make dangerous changes to the market economy and provoke revolt against measures, for example in transport, that affected people’s daily lives. “I will be on the side of those revolting,” Nüßlein said.