2019 is a landmark year for energy and environment. By the end of 2019, Member States, like Ireland, will be required to submit National Energy and Climate Plans 2021 – 2030 ("NECPs"). Each finalised NECP will serve two purposes. It will map out the national contribution to regional climate objectives. It will also provide the framework within which key sectors (like energy, construction, transport and agriculture) can develop and operate over the next 10 years. The Irish government submitted the first draft of our NECP to the European Commission in December 2018. European recommendations on this draft are expected by 1 July 2019, and a further public consultation on the final draft plan is scheduled for Q3 2019. In preparation for this public consultation, this briefing provides an overview of the NECP and answers key questions like: what the NECP is designed to achieve; how Ireland expects to realise its objectives; and what will happen next.
1. What is Ireland’s NECP designed to achieve?
On 24 December 2018 the EU’s Governance Regulatio entered into force as part of the EU’s Clean Energy for All European’s package of legislation. The Governance Regulation aims to simplify existing climate and energy planning, reporting and monitoring requirements. It requires Member States to finalise and submit NECPs following a template to outline how they intend to further the goals of the Energy Union and promote: (i) energy security; (ii) internal energy market; (iii) energy efficiency; (iv) decarbonisation; and (v) research, innovation and competitiveness. In particular, Member States are required to describe how they will contribute to the EU’s main climate targets to:
- reduce greenhouse gases by 40% (against 1990 levels);
- increase renewable energy consumption to 32%; and
- improve the efficiency of how energy is used by 32.5%.
In addition to contributing to regional 2030 goals, Member States must also plan how they intend to realise national objectives set by the EU. For Ireland, this means plotting a course to reducing domestic greenhouse gases by 30%. In so doing the government must also decide whether to satisfy this target using available flexibility mechanisms. It also means that the Irish government must describe how to ensure that at least 15% of the electricity produced domestically can be traded with other Member States, by 2030.
2. How Does the Government Plan to Achieve These Objectives – Climate Change: A Cross Party Consensus for Change?
Nationally, a number of far-reaching recommendations have already been made. In March 2019, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action published its in-depth report “Climate Change: a cross party consensus for change”. This report seeks to join the dots between domestic sector policies, to enable Ireland to reach carbon neutrality in line with European and international objectives, and was strongly influenced by the advice of the Climate Change Advisory Council (the independent advisory body tasked with advising on how to move to a low carbon economy by 2050).
The report contains 10 comprehensive chapters spanning the following sectors and topics: (i) the need for a new national framework, (ii) supports for a just transition, (iii) citizen and community education, (iv) education and communication, (v) unlocking potential, (vi) incentivising climate action, (vii) energy, (viii) agriculture, forestry and peatlands, (ix) build environment and (x) transport. This report is expected to feed into an all-governmental plan on climate change, which will inform Ireland’s final NECP. The Oireachtas Joint Committee report’s central recommendations for environment, planning and energy are repeated below:
- Chapter one calls for a new governance framework, new climate change legislation in 2019; the establishment of a Climate Action Council; five year carbon budgets and a renewable electricity share of 70 % by 2030.
- Chapter three calls for the establishment of a Climate Change Strategic Policy Committee for each local authority after June 2019.
- Chapter six calls for all large planned and new public infrastructure projects to be priced for their carbon impact using the revised shadow price of carbon; and the setting of a carbon price trajectory to rise to €80 per tonne by 2030.
Chapter seven calls for the bringing forward of the Maritime Area and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill with a view to its enactment by the end of 2019 and the finalisation of the new Wind Energy Development Guidelines by 1 September 2019.
What happens next?
The government has indicated that it aims to publish the final draft NECP for public consultation in Q3 2019. This draft is expected to be guided by the all-governmental plan including some of the recommendations discussed above and to incorporate the recommendations of the European Commission.
Ireland is currently devising the national long-term plan to move the domestic economy to carbon neutrality. When finalised, this should directly address the multi-tentacled problem of climate change. It should outline a trajectory for Ireland to meet national and regional climate goals by detailing the cross-sectoral policies and laws which are planned for the next 10 years. It is a complicated plan requiring involvement from national and regional bodies, and public support. In preparation for the next evolutionary stage of the draft NECP, this briefing provides an overview of its development to date, along with some future key dates for the diary