In a Nutshell
- Ireland is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 as per the ‘Climate Law’ (Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021). It aims to balance emissions with GHG removal, particularly focusing on the agricultural and forestry sectors for carbon dioxide removal.
- Legal frameworks supporting these commitments include annual updates to the Climate Action Plan and sectoral emissions ceilings. However, current regulations restrict carbon storage in geological formations and international transport of CO2, limiting the potential for BECCS and DACCS projects.
- Support for R&D and Innovation is substantial, with key initiatives like the 2050 Sustainability Accelerator and blue carbon projects like ‘BlueC’ and ‘Quest’. Work is also underway on soil carbon sequestration and the carbon sequestration potential of peatlands.
- A comprehensive Land Use Review is due by the end of 2023, guiding future carbon management policies in the LULUCF sector. Additionally, Ireland’s National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) detailing the 2030 target measures was due on 30 June 2023, and reviews are planned for the carbon tax increases legislated in the 2020 Finance Act.
Role for carbon removal in national climate policy
Ireland set the legally binding target of achieving net zero emissions no later than 2050 through the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 also referred to as the ‘Climate Law’. To achieve this target, emissions will have to be balanced or exceeded by the removal of GHGs.
This target is further set out in the Long-term Strategy on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions, which outlines indicative pathways, post-2030, towards achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The Strategy also calls for the creation of a negative emissions strategy. The climate-neutral pathway envisages that further measures will be required to offset residual emissions with negative emissions, particularly for the agricultural sector, for which it states it will be impossible to completely eliminate all emissions. However, it is noted that this sector, along with forestry, has a unique capacity to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
As Ireland’s LULUCF sector is a net source of emissions, Ireland seeks to increase removals in this sector through initiatives such as afforestation, promotion of forest management initiatives, improved management of grasslands on mineral soils and peatland restoration.
Forestry in Ireland is now reported as a source of emissions, rather than a sink, primarily due to the revision of the emission factor to a higher value for forestry on peaty or organic soils which drives higher rates of carbon loss. The state-owned commercial forestry business outlines in its Coillte’s Strategic Vision that it will capture additional carbon dioxide in its forests, soils and wood products by 2050.
All of these conventional CDR methods are intended to contribute to the annual negative emissions budget that will be required by 2050. While the targets set out the plan for net removals by 2050, measures outlined to grow carbon sinks are targeted at reducing the amount of net emissions increases in the LULUCF sector, rather than aiming for removals.
Ireland is also exploring blue carbon strategies. Blue carbon refers to the carbon captured by the oceans and coastal ecosystems, primarily vegetated coastal systems like tidal wetlands, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests, where applicable.
Ireland’s National Hydrogen Strategy mentions the production of hydrogen using BECCS. Engineered removals are not mentioned in Ireland’s climate policy, although the need for a national CCS strategy has been mentioned in the last two climate action plans. Feasibility studies outlined as part of the Climate Action Plan 2019 have been undertaken to assess the national potential for CCS, including BECCS.
Relevant legal frameworks
The 2021 Climate Law is supported by annual updates to the Climate Action Plan 2019, of which the latest is the Climate Action Plan 2023. These plans set out the policies, measures and actions to meet the 5-year carbon budgets and sectoral emissions ceilings, which provide the pathway to meeting Ireland’s climate targets. The LULUCF sectoral ceiling is expected by the end of 2023, as the government completes the 5-year economy-wide total figures will be available following the finalisation of the sectoral emissions ceilings for the LULUCF sector. There are currently no national removals targets in Ireland.
At present, CO2 storage in geological formations is illegal in Ireland, and the country has yet to ratify an amendment to the London Protocol, which would allow the international transport of CO2. This restriction limits the country’s ability to implement BECCS and DACCS projects – barriers that would need to be addressed if Ireland were to deploy these technologies.
Support for R&D and Innovation
Key R&D initiatives in Ireland include the 2050 Sustainability Accelerator supported by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications. The Department has a programme stream focusing on accelerating carbon dioxide removal solutions, such as enhanced weathering (EW).
Two research projects supported by the Environmental Protection Agency, ‘BlueC’ and ‘Quest’, are aimed at understanding and leveraging Ireland’s blue carbon potential. Technological innovation will be driven by Ireland’s Technology Centres and Technology Gateways and will target areas like heat pump technology, carbon capture and storage, and the bioeconomy.
Through its National Peatlands Strategy, the government also plans to undertake further research to evaluate the potential for carbon sequestration, storage and emission reductions through the management, restoration and rehabilitation of peatlands. The Climate Action Plan also foresees fully operationalising the National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory. The observatory will study methods to increase soil carbon sequestration.
The two-year Farming Carbon European Innovation Programme started in 2021 to explore carbon sink enhancement practices on wetlands.
On the horizon
The government is set to complete a comprehensive Land Use Review by the end of 2023, which will help inform sectoral emissions ceilings for the LULUCF sector and guide future land use policies for better carbon management. Ireland is due to submit its National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), which will detail the measures Ireland plans to meet its 2030 targets. Furthermore, the government is set to monitor and review the carbon tax increases that were legislated in the 2020 Finance Act.
- Net zero target: 2050
- Net Negative Target:
- First interim target: 2030
- Type of interim target: Emissions reduction target
- GHGs covered: Carbon dioxide and other GHGs
- Separate target for emission reduction and removals: No
- Comprehensive CDR Target: no
- CDR Target for Conventional Removals: yes
- CDR Target for Novel Removals: no
- Annual reporting mechanism: Annual reporting
- Plans for carbon removal (CDR): Yes (nature-based removals e.g. Forestation, soil carbon enhancement)
- Planning to use external carbon credits: Not Specified
- Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications – responsible for the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors and regulates, protects and develops the natural resources of Ireland.
- Environmental Protection Agency – responsible for protecting and improving the environment as a valuable asset for the people of Ireland. It operates independently under the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications.
- The Climate Action Delivery Board – a group of secretaries general of government departments who are responsible for ‘actions’ under the Climate Action Plan. It monitors how well these actions are being achieved and it reports on progress to the government.
- Climate Change Advisory Council – an independent advisory body tasked with assessing and advising Ireland’s transition to a low-carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050.
- An Taisce – The National Trust for Ireland, established on a provisional basis in September 1946, and incorporated as a company based on an ‘association not for profit’ in June 1948, is a charitable non-governmental organisation active in the areas of the environment and built heritage in the Republic of Ireland.
- Teagasc – the Agriculture and Food Development Authority is the national body providing integrated research, advisory and training services to the agriculture and food industry and rural communities.
- National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory – Focused on the monitoring of carbon emissions and removals across a range of Irish soils.