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Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 – Draft Bill Published

  • Ireland
  • Environment - Energy and sustainability

24-03-2021

On Tuesday 23 March 2021, the draft Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 (the “Bill”) was brought to Cabinet by the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications (the “Minister”), and was approved. The Bill has been in circulation for some time, but the revised and final draft is far reaching in its ambition.

The principal goal of the Bill is to ensure the State is carbon neutral by 2050, with half of this target to be achieved by 31 December 2030. The Bill places this ambition on a statutory footing with a comprehensive legal framework for significantly reducing Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Some of the key commitments of the Bill are explored below.

Net-Zero Emissions

The Bill commits the State to achieving net-zero emissions in three decades, by no later than 2050. This aim is referred to in the Bill as the ‘national climate objective’.

Carbon Budgeting

The means by which the national climate objective is to be achieved is through a series of carbon budgets, consistent with the Paris agreement and other international obligations.

Under the Bill, the Government must legislate for a carbon budget every five years. This budget must encapsulate all greenhouse gas emissions and will set sector specific targets for emissions, so called sectoral emission ceilings, which are legally binding. The Climate Action Plan, updated and issued annually, will detail specific actions for various sectors, such as agriculture. It is acknowledged achievable targets will vary between sectors, and the relevant actions required will be over the lifetime of the carbon budget.

Government ministers will be responsible for the carbon budget set for their ministerial portfolio, and will be answerable to an Oireachtas Committee annually in relation to these targets.

The Bill does not impose financial penalties on any sector which does not meet its target.

Climate Change Advisory Committee

The Climate Change Advisory Committee (the “CCAC”) is the designated entity which will draft the carbon budget, and present it to the Minister who in turn will seek its approval by Cabinet. The Bill states that the CCAC must be mindful of “climate justice” when recommending actions to reduce emissions, meaning environmental and societal causes must be borne in mind.

The Bill also includes an ‘interim target’ of a 51% reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions by 31 December 2030, meaning that the first two carbon budgets proposed by the CCAC must account for this target.

Sectoral Emissions Ceilings

It is the role of the Minister to work within the realm of the carbon budget proposed to set the maximum amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are permitted in various sectors of the economy during a carbon budget period (sectoral emissions ceilings).

The sectoral emission ceilings shall be submitted to Government for approval as soon as possible after the carbon budget takes effect.

Climate Action Plan and strategy

The Climate Action Plan 2019 must be updated and issued annually by the Minister. The Climate Action Plan must be consistent with the carbon budget and ‘set out a roadmap of actions’ for the various sectors to take in order to meet their sectoral emission ceilings set by the CCAC in the carbon budget.

Local Authorities

Local authorities are required to prepare five year plans which will specify specific ‘mitigation measures’ and ‘adaption measures’ the local authority will adopt regarding climate action.

The Bill will now pass through the houses of the Oireachtas as priority legislation.

The Bill can be accessed here.

For further information, please contact:

Mark Varian, Partner, Head of Construction, Projects & PPP - MarkVarian@eversheds-sutherland.ie

Jennifer Burke, Senior Associate, Construction & Projects - JenniferBurke@eversheds-sutherland.ie

Phelim McGeady, Associate, Construction & Projects - PhelimMcGeady@eversheds-sutherland.ie

Stephanie White, Solicitor, Construction & Projects - StephanieWhite@eversheds-sutherland.ie