More regular flooding, aggressive storms and drought will be outcome of watering down our climate targets.
New European Climate Change targets have been revealed today and they have made it easier for Ireland because of how emissions and carbon is accounted for.
The Environmental Pillar, a coalition of 28 Irish national environmental NGOs, warns that the change to emission targets moves us further away from the goal of 1.5C global warming.
Failure to meet the 1.5C goal will mean a future where flooding, violent storms, and drought will be regular occurrences – as well as the knock on impacts of food insecurity and an increase in climate refugees.
The Environmental Pillar also point out that the inclusion of loopholes to get out of emission cuts present their own threats to Ireland’s environment as it encourages massive carbon offsetting though forestry.
Today the European Commission have proposed national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for 2021 – 2030. They relate specifically to emission across agriculture, transport, buildings and waste as part of the European Effort Sharing Decision (ESD).
Under the proposed targets Ireland will have to reduce emissions in these sectors by 30 per cent by 2030 – on the basis of an average of 2016 – 2018 emissions. This means that Ireland has been rewarded for not attempting to meet its 2020 targets.
The Commission proposal also contains two loopholes which can be used to offset the national targets. The first is the use of surplus allowances from the EUs carbon market (ETS). This means a country can put up to 100m tonnes of carbon from the carbon market towards the agriculture, building and transport sectors. The second is to allow forestry to count against emissions up to a value of 280m tonnes.
Kate Ruddock spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar said:
“There may be certain vested interests in Ireland happy with the changes to the emissions targets announced today.
“But any celebration is short-sighted and will be short-lived. To treat our climate change targets as some kind of international negotiation which can have winners and losers is to completely misunderstand the aim of climate action. If we fail to achieve the goals of the Paris Talks we all lose.
“Failure to quickly move to a post-carbon society is to damn future generations to the flooding, storms and drought that we are beginning to see. Any delay in changing our food systems, our infrastructure, or our energy generation means that in future decades people will have to make those changes and possibly at a time when they are severely feeling the pressure of a changed climate.
“Ireland has an opportunity right now to be a climate leader but it means getting serious about our commitments. Our politicians have to stop talking tough on climate action in Dublin and going to Brussels and trying to unpick the agreements that will slow the warming.”
The Environmental Pillar also warn that the new emission rules may incentivise the unsustainable use of land in the name of climate change mitigation.
The ability of countries to offset emissions against forestry could cause significant damage to the Irish environment if not done sensitively and with a long term view.
In Ireland new forests usually mean intensively managed non-native monoculture plantations. This type of forestry often supports no biodiversity and in certain cases impacts it negatively.
Oonagh Duggan spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar said:
“We are concerned that these new measures might lead to a ramping up of intensive monoculture plantations which could be very negative for the environment.
“Intensive forestry models can need fertilisers and pesticides which can damage water courses. Also the introduction of non-native trees can seriously damage biodiversity and already threaten some of our rarest species of birds. Afforestation has been identified as the second highest threat to EU protected species and habitats.
“The location of new forestry is also of concern. Studies have shown that planting on improved grassland can have a positive impact on biodiversity whereas planting in areas that are rich in biodiversity it can have the opposite effect.
“Both agriculture and forestry can be significant pressures and threats to birds and other biodiversity in Ireland. Environmental integrity is lacking in policies that are being rolled out for these sectors.
“We need to re-align agricultural and forestry policy so that the environment is at its core.”