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Government climate change report warns some key commitments are not being met

A group of independent experts that conducts an annual assessment of the government’s performance on climate change has identified for the first time that some of the government’s key commitments are at risk of not being met.

In their third annual assessment, the three independent academic experts give the government a grade of C+, meaning “moderate progress” on their own climate and environmental promises.

The grade represents a small improvement over the C-rating the coalition received last year and reflects some additional effort and investment in environmental commitments, as well as a significant improvement in the energy category.

The assessment was commissioned by Friends of the Earth and conducted by Dr. Cara Augustenborg from University College Dublin, Dr. Diarmuid Torney from Dublin City University and Dr. Paul Deane of University College Cork.

The panel identified some key environmental commitments in the government program that the coalition risks missing. “On the current path, Ireland will not meet its commitments to the first carbon budget and sectoral emissions caps,” the report said.

Areas identified as problems and challenges include agriculture and forestry. It also sets out commitments on drinking water and waste water and raises concerns about ‘dangerous’ levels of nitrates and phosphates in many of Ireland’s rivers, estuaries and coastal waters.

Both areas are rated “poor” on the scorecard, while climate, biodiversity and transport receive “moderate” ratings. “Good” scores come from Buildings, Air Quality and Energy, while Waste and Circular Economy scored 7.5 out of 10, down one point from last year’s assessment.

dr Augustenborg said there were positives to take away from the exercise. “Government’s work since 2020 provides clear evidence of progress being made in most areas to improve Ireland’s environmental health,” she said. “It is frustrating that this work is not yet visible in people’s lives and we are not seeing the transformative changes needed to address the climate and biodiversity emergency.”

She said the big question is whether the government is strong enough to achieve this in its short term, given that elections are due before 2025 and are widely expected next year.

dr Deane said the review was not cause for celebration. “Ireland’s greenhouse gas pollution has fallen marginally this year, but we are still massively dependent on fossil fuels. However, we see a positive foundation being laid for a cleaner future.”

The review revealed a mixed picture, said Dr. Torney. “While a good foundation is being laid and there is solid progress in some areas, overall implementation is slower than I would have liked after about two-thirds of the government’s tenure.”

Oisín Coghlan, chief executive of Friends of the Earth, said the government was “making incremental policy changes while meeting its own commitments now requires change”.

“Coalition leaders need to make people understand that some level of inconvenience and disruption is now unavoidable to prevent climate chaos and destruction across the board. I am afraid that with the upcoming elections, the party leaders will become more timid, although honesty and courage are what we need now.”

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