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Issue No. 102 - April 15, 2017

1. Irish parliamentary report supports fracking ban bill

Prohibition of Fracking Bill Ireland The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment has published a report on its scrutiny of the Prohibition of the Exploration and Extraction of Onshore Petroleum Bill 2016 (fracking ban). The Joint Committee is broadly in favour of passing the bill as it stands, with minor revisions. The bill will now progress to the Select Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, where it is expected to be discussed in May.
The report's main findings are as follows:
  1. A legislative ban, as proposed, is preferable to a continuation of the present unofficial moratorium or attempts at regulation, which would not be sufficient to prevent pollution.
  2. The risks of unconventional gas exploration and extraction outweigh any possible benefits.
  3. A fracking ban should be enacted as standalone legislation (as proposed), rather than as part of other existing legislation.
  4. The bill could be improved with certain terminology revisions, the inclusion of enforcement measures (penalties/offences associated with contravention of the bill), and an expansion of the bill to take account of other activities, such as geothermal technologies, which may be used to access shale gas through other means.

The bill will now progress to the Select Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The government is expected to propose amendments to cover the modifications suggested by the Joint Committee. The report suggests that such amendments could be discussed at either the committee or report stages of the bill.

The decision to support the proposed legislative ban on fracking has been welcomed by the Environmental Pillar, a coalition of 26 Irish environmental NGOs:
Shale Gas Extraction

"As a network we are delighted that the Committee's report can now be added to the mounting global and national peer-reviewed evidence detailing the significant risks and negative impacts associated with unconventional fossil fuel extraction.

"A review of the significant evidence from around the world on the risks and dangers of fracking clearly shows that a simple and immediate ban should be introduced in Ireland."

Ahead of the publication of the report, Friends of the Earth Ireland director Oisin Coghlan said:

"I understand the report reflects the overwhelming evidence that the committee received that the risks from fracking outweigh any possible advantages.

"We have now established all-party political support. There’s obvious public support for a ban and now the committee’s analysis of the evidence is also clear, but we don’t think the parliamentary process reflects the urgency of the issue, I worry the Government is trying to delay it. It’s a simple bill. It’s time to get on and pass it."

2. EPA warns Ireland likely to fall far short of 2020 emissions targets

GHG emission projections Ireland
According to projections from the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ireland will not meet its 2020 EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets. The EPA projections indicate that emissions will only be 4 – 6% below 2005 levels by 2020. Ireland's target is a reduction of 20%.

The EPA has warned that current and planned policies and measures are not sufficient to meet the 2020 targets, with emissions projected to continue to increase out to 2030 and beyond.

Cited by the Irish Independent, EPA director general Laura Burke said:

"The EPA’s latest greenhouse gas projections are a disappointing indicator that the current range of policy measures to reduce emissions and to meet compliance obligations are failing in an improving economy."

While the EPA projections concern the sectors outside of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), recent figures show that the greenhouse gas emissions from Irish companies participating in the ETS increased by 5.4% in 2016, in contrast with a decline across Europe of 2.7%.

Emissions from the aviation sector increased by 23%. As the Irish Examiner explained, this increase was due to increased traffic and to the attribution of Norwegian Air to the Irish list. Of the roughly 100 heavy energy users from Ireland that are registered to the ETS, mainly power plants, large industrial facilities and airlines, Ryanair topped the list for greenhouse gas emissions.

Ryanair produced 8.43 tonnes of carbon emissions in 2016, an increase of 1 million tonnes from 2015 and substantially more than its annual allowance of 4.6 million tonnes, which means that the company must buy carbon credits from other users that have come in under their limit. While the carbon price fluctuates, it is currently around €4.86 per tonne, according to the Examiner.

In the power generation sector, emissions from Irish ETS participants such as ESB increased by 6.6%, with Moneypoint alone responsible for 4.4 million tonnes. Cement industry emissions increased by 6.8%, with Irish Cement producing 1.5 million tonnes at its Limerick and Meath plants combined. Auginish Alumina produced 1.2 million tonnes.

Historic and projected CO2 emissions from the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors in Ireland

EPA Programme Manager Dr. Tom Ryan said:

"The increase in emissions is a disappointing indicator that the price of carbon remains too low for the trading system to have the desired impact on emissions in Ireland...Ireland has a national policy position that commits us to reducing our carbon emissions by at least 80 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors while achieving carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land use sectors.

“In order to deliver on our national policy position we must break our dependence on fossil energy infrastructures. This will take planning, investment and time but can be achieved in the overall framework of national, EU and global commitments."

Cumulative distance to emission targets Ireland
Regarding Ireland's planning for climate change mitigation, Ireland's long-awaited draft National Mitigation Plan has been sharply criticised by Friends of the Earth and Stop Climate Chaos, who say it fails to provide a sufficiently ambitious plan to reduce Ireland's emissions.

The Paris Agreement commits Ireland and all the other parties to the treaty to hold "the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels."

According to latest figures, Ireland’s current emissions are 6.6% above 1990 levels, and emissions increased by 3.7% in 2015. Ireland, with the 8th highest emissions per person in the OECD, is one of only two countries in the EU which will overshoot its 2020 targets for emissions reductions.

3. Study shows earlier than expected climate "payback" from aggressive climate action

A new study from the UK Met Office Hadley Centre, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, has shown that the early mitigation needed to limit eventual warming below potentially dangerous levels has a climate "payback" much earlier than previously thought.

According to lead scientist Andrew Ciavarella, who explains the findings in the video above,"Our study has shown that efforts to reduce global temperature rise in the long term – through aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions – can halve the risk of heat extremes within two decades."

Another author on the paper, Prof. Peter Stott, commented: "It is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions rapidly to help avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change, but it had been thought that most of the benefits of this early mitigation would be felt only much later in the century. This new research shows that many people alive today could see substantial benefits of efforts to reduce emissions thanks to a greatly reduced risk of heat waves in as little as two decades."

New analysis from Carbon Brief underlines the urgency of aggressive climate action, showing that at current emissions levels, the carbon budget for remaining below 1.5°C of warming will be used up in four years.

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