Serious concerns have been raised by a group of Irish academics regarding the Government’s approach to sectoral emissions ceilings and carbon budgets.

In a letter sent to the leaders of the coalition, they assert that the Government’s approach is flawed, both in law and in science, and carries grave risks of critically undermining the overarching objectives of the Climate Act.

The letter was sent by Barry McMullin, DCU; Andrew Jackson, UCD; Paul Price, DCU and John Sweeney, Maynooth University.

Multiple challenges

Firstly, the figures announced by Government are not sectoral emissions ceilings as defined by the Climate Act according to the group.

The act required the Minister for the Environment to bring forward maximum limits for the total emissions for each sector over each carbon budget period (2021-2025 and 2026-2030).

Instead, Government has announced sectoral limits for one discrete year, 2030, according to the letter.

The act requires the sum of sectoral emissions ceilings must be less than or equal to the total carbon budget already set for that period. The letter illustrates that individual sectors have no clarity of the total carbon budget within each period that they need to comply with.

Highlighting the omission of the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector, they note that not all sectors are covered as required by the act. The letter points out that this must be considered unlawful at some point.

Finally, the group can find no basis in the Climate Act for the portion of unallocated emissions reductions. Concluding, they emphasise an urgent need to address these points.

This letter follows earlier criticism by the chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council, Marie Donnelly, who noted that the quantified emissions reductions amount to 43% excluding the land use sector as opposed to 50%.

Donnelly also noted that the Government has not shown how the emissions ceilings are consistent with the carbon budgets; and they exclude the land use sector which needs urgent action.