"The government has relinquished control over the offshore areas of our industry. Norway was tough regarding oil companies from the start. You now have an almost embarrassingly large pension fund. The situation for Irish communities, however, is as in Ogoniland in Nigeria - oil is a curse,”
Government policies will have to change if Ireland is to meet the target of reducing carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, a new report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) says.
The Government has made a commitment to achieving a 20 per cent reduction in non-traded carbon emissions compared to 2005 but the report predicts that they could rise by as much as 5 per cent by 2020.
The Environment Review 2012 by environmental economist John Curtis says Ireland is expected to comply with its Kyoto Protocol target covering the 2008-2012 period “but compliance with longer term targets will be much more difficult”. It calls for a new action plan which would include the options and scope for buying offsetting allowances.
Waste generation has been in decline for the past six years and the downward trend in household waste generation is expected to continue until 2015, it states. However, the report predicts a significant increase after that. While that sounds like bad news, the reasons for the increase are good news.
“With economic recovery, increased employment, as well as projected growth in the population, we anticipate waste generation to be substantially higher in the future than today,” it says.
“By 2030 we project that municipal waste generation will be 33 per cent or roughly 0.9 million tonnes higher than current levels; and 24 per cent higher for household waste. Growing waste streams will have an impact in terms of future collection and waste treatment capacity. Regional waste management plans, which are currently being reviewed, will need to reflect anticipated growth in waste.”
Mr Curtis also says the Government’s plan for agriculture - Food Harvest 2020 – should be re-assessed for its impact on greenhouse gas emissions and its potential to impact water quality. If the plan is implemented in full, it would increase emissions from livestock by one million tonnes a year in 2020. The planned expansion of dairy production by 50 per cent would increase excreted nitrogen by an extra 22,000 tonnes a year in 2020.
The report says curtailing Irish milk and beef production is not the solution as production will move overseas to places like Brazil, without any global environmental benefit. Instead, it says the Government should look at getting a special mechanism at European Union level for managing agricultural emissions within Europe.
The report says emissions of F-gases, which are particularly potent greenhouse gases emitted in industrial production, could increase from one per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions at present to more than four per cent within a decade.
It points to the high level of carbon dioxide emissions from peat, compared with gas and oil and says fuel switching away from peat offers scope for emissions reduction. “Extending the carbon tax to peat would discourage its use in the residential sector (e.g. peat briquettes) and make a small contribution to emissions reduction,” it states. “However, a significant benefit of the phase out of peat as a fuel would be a reduction in particulate emissions, which have an adverse impact on health.”
The use of renewable energy will lower greenhouse gas emissions but the report says these energies are not without their environmental problems. “To achieve a dramatic increase in renewable energy, a wider review of renewable policy at EU level and its impact on competitiveness and environmental benefits is merited.”