Published on Wednesday7thOctober2020

Government Publishes New Climate Law Which Commits Ireland To Net-Zero Carbon Emissions By 2050

Governance framework to set out how Ireland will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by, on average, at least 7% per annum for the next ten years


The Government has today (Wednesday) published the draft text of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2020. The Bill will set the country on course to become climate neutral by 2050. The key features of the Bill are:

•             Putting our 2050 Climate Target in law

•             Carbon budgets including a provision for setting sectoral targets

•             Annually-revised Climate Action Plan

•             Strengthened Role for Climate Change Advisory Council

•             New Oversight and Accountability by Oireachtas


The Bill is a positive step forward for the climate agenda, but also for Ireland. The Climate Action Bill will make Ireland a leader when it comes to climate action. It provides a clear and important signal to the economy, to businesses, farmers and to our communities that climate action will drive investment, to allow us reach our climate targets, stimulate job creation and provide a safer and healthier environment for all of society.


The Bill draws on recommendations of the cross section of Irish people who took part in the Citizens Assembly on Climate, as well the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action. It is also a cornerstone of the Programme for Government and was identified as a priority for legislation.


Speaking today at the publication, Taoiseach, Micheál Martin said:

Climate action is a key priority for this Government.  I welcome the publication of this legislation, which reflects the commitment, ambition and targets set out in the Programme for Government on climate issues. This legislation is truly ground-breaking and will have a transformative impact on our society and economy into the future. Collectively as a people, we must embrace this agenda and work tirelessly to protect and save our planet for future generations to live in.


Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan said:

The Climate Action bill is a radical departure for Ireland and one that puts our country on a new course. It creates a new target to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, which will change our economy and society at every level. We will change how we heat our homes, generate power, move around our country, grow our food and run our businesses. It sends a clear signal to every sector that it must reshape its activities to reduce emissions. I believe it also creates great opportunities for Ireland to be a leader in renewable power, repair and retrofitting, sustainable agriculture and the circular economy. This is where the jobs of the future will come from. Our young people have told us it is time to act and today we are answering that challenge, by putting our commitments into law.


Tánaiste Leo Varadkar TDsaid:

This Bill will create a better, more sustainable future for all. Many of the actions would be good to do in any case, regardless of climate obligations, resulting in cleaner air, warmer homes, shorter commutes, greater energy security, more resilient communities and a better quality of life for all. 


I am confident that the decarbonisation of the economy will present significant opportunities for Irish business. Whether that be in the huge expansion of entire industries, such as retrofitting or offshore wind, or in the creation of innovative solutions to the adaptations that will need to be made, the early movers with the most ambition will see the greatest opportunities. Thousands of jobs will be created and we will need to ensure we have a strong pipeline of skills to respond. The annual Climate Action Plan, which started last year and is now being underpinned by this legislation, will provide clear actions which will give certainty to business and all sectors to know what is coming down the tracks.



New 2050 Target

The Bill puts into law a commitment for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, through a ‘National 2050 Climate Objective’ – that the State will pursue the transition to a climate resilient and climate neutral economy by the end of the year 2050.

A climate neutral economy means a sustainable economy where greenhouse gas emissions are balanced or exceeded by their removal.

Setting a 2050 target into law provides a clear long-term direction for our climate ambition and provides Ireland with opportunities to reimagine our economy and society.


Carbon Budgets

The Bill also establishes a system of successive carbon budgets starting in 2021. Carbon budgets will include all greenhouse gases. Each five year carbon budget will allocate emissions ceilings to all relevant sectors (known as ‘decarbonisation target ranges’).


The first budgets will span 2021-2035.

A graduating carbon budgetary process, and sectoral decarbonisation target ranges will provide a clear signal and pathways to drive future investment, allowing us to reach our climate targets and stimulate job creation in new sectors such as retrofitting and renewable energy, the circular economy, clean mobility, green and blue infrastructure, sustainable agriculture and the bio-economy.


Other New Elements in the Bill

The Bill also provides for annual revisions of the Climate Action Plan and the development of a National Long Term Climate Action Strategy at least once every 10 years. This will ensure we remain on course to achieve our climate commitments and provide an opportunity to adapt and make corrective measures on the way if required.


The Bill will also ensure greater climate action at regional and local level, with local authorities required to develop five year Climate Action Plans with mitigation and adaptation measures included.


The Climate Change Advisory Council has a strengthened role to advise and propose carbon budgets to Government. The Bill also ensures that future Council membership will include greater gender balance and increased scientific expertise.


There will be greater accountability and oversight by the Oireachtas with all relevant ministers required to give account for their sectors annually.



Notes to the Editor

Key elements of this new strengthened statutory framework will include:

• establishing a 2050 target  in law – known as the ‘national 2050 climate objective’ by committing to climate neutral economy;

• introducing a legal requirement for Government to adopt a series of three successive, economy-wide carbon budgets and decarbonisation ranges for each relevant sector;

• strengthening the role of the Climate Change Advisory Council, enabling it to propose appropriate carbon budgets to the Minister;

• providing an opportunity for an Oireachtas Committee to consider the Government’s recommended carbon budgets as part of  the approval process for carbon budgets; 

• requirement to annually revise the Climate Action Plan with actions to deliver carbon budgets and sectoral targets;

• prepare at least once every 10 years a National Long Term Climate Action Strategy which will  specify how we will  achieve the 2050 objective;

• improved accountability arrangements with a greater role for the Oireachtas – Ministers will have to give account for their performance towards sectoral targets and actions before an Oireachtas Committee each year;

• provisions to streamline the preparation of future Sectoral Adaptation Plans; and

• a requirement for all Local Authorities to prepare individual Climate Action Plans which will include both  mitigation and adaptation measures – Minister to request within 18 months of the enactment of the Bill, and not less than once in every five year period going forward.


2050 target ‘National 2050 Climate Objective’

• The Bill creates a national emissions reduction target – the ‘national 2050 climate objective’. It is a commitment to transition between now and 2050 to a climate resilient and climate neutral economy by the end of 2050.

• The definition of ‘climate neutral economy’ provides that by 2050 all greenhouse gases in Ireland are balanced or exceeded by removals. 

Carbon Budgets – Operation and adoption process

• The draft Bill outlines that the Government will adopt a system of carbon budgets as part of a programme of three five-year periods calculated on an economy-wide basis, starting with the periods 2021 to 2025, 2026 to 2030, and 2031 to 2035.

• The Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) will propose a programme of three, successive carbon budgets to the Minister.

• Carbon budgets are presented to the Government and then the Houses for consideration and approval.

• The Minister will prepare sectoral decarbonisation target ranges for each relevant sector within the ceiling of the carbon budget.

Stronger Dáil and Seanad Oversight of Climate Policy

• Both Houses have a role in the development and approval of carbon budgets.

• Ministers will be accountable to an Oireachtas Committee on Climate an annual basis to give account on performance against the targets.

• Ministers will have to attend the Committee and respond to any recommendations within 3 months.


New Plans / Strategies

• Starting in 2021 annual updates will be made to the Climate Action Plan. Annual revisions to the Climate Action Plan will focus on the near and medium term perspectives, and will provide a roadmap of actions, including sectoral actions to achieve the carbon budget and sectoral decarbonisation target ranges.

• A National Long Term Climate Action Strategy will be prepared once every 10 years and may be updated every 5 years if necessary. It will specify the manner in which it is proposed to achieve the national 2050 climate objective.

• The National Mitigation Plan will be replaced by the preparation of the Climate Action Plan and National Long Term Climate Action Strategy.


Local Government Role

• All Local Authorities will develop Local Authority Climate Action Plans for their areas covering both mitigation and adaptation actions. This will provide more visible local action to tackle climate change.


Climate Change Advisory Council

• The Advisory Council will have an important new function of proposing economy-wide carbon budgets.

• The Bill also provides for greater gender balance and scientific experience in future Council membership.