CLIMATE action is a major focus in Ireland’s 2020 budget, with renewable energy projects, increased infrastructure on electric vehicles, a transition fund and making houses more energy-efficient identified as some of the key projects for this year.
“We are taking the actions needed now, to secure a sustainable, resilient Ireland for future generations,” the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton T.D. said when the budget was first announced in October.
Climate Action Plan Rollout – Key Points
- Transition to Electric Vehicles: Government grants have supported a five-fold increase in electric vehicle purchases since 2016. Budget 2020 will see €36m allocated in 2020 (compared €18m in Budget 2019) to further incentivise uptake. The number of home chargers installed will be doubled and the fast charger network will also double in 2020. The government will further rollout the nationwide network of on-street chargers.
- Warmer Homes, Cheaper Energy Bills: In 2020, an allocation of €146m (€29m increase on 2019) will be used to upgrade 24,000 homes and businesses. This is a nearly three-fold increase on 2016 funding. A new Retrofitting model will deliver upgrades to large groups of houses at the same time to drive down cost, develop easy payback mechanisms making the works easier and more affordable. This work will commence in 2020 with a programme targetting social houses in the Midlands.
- Radical Action on Waste: A radical new waste strategy will be developed in 2020. Increased funding for anti-dumping initiatives will be maintained, with €3m from the environment fund ring-fenced to help communities tackle illegal dumping. A further €12m is being allocated in 2020, including a significant landfill remediation project.
- Decarbonising Energy Supply: €3.7m to support installation of solar panels on homes. €9.7m to support emerging technologies which harness the power of the Ireland’s ocean resources and research into how the country can move away from fossil fuels, while ensuring energy security. €5m to support the uptake of alternative fuels such as biomass in the heat sector. A new Scheme will be launched by the end of the year which will see a 60% increase in the amount of renewables on the grid.
- Protecting Environment: €59.4m to support the sustainable development of Ireland’s natural and inland fishery resources
In accordance with the advice from the Climate Change Advisory Council which has said that carbon pricing is essential to delivering Ireland’s climate targets, and as agreed by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action, the government are committed to increasing the price of carbon to €80 per tonne by 2030.
Budget 2020 will see a €6 increase in the price of carbon, all of which will be ring-fenced to support climate action and protect those most vulnerable. Over the next decade this will raise more than €6 billion to be used in this way.
This government is committed to small increases year on year to give people time to plan and to avoid a big hike in any one year.
Minister Bruton said: “The independent Climate Change Advisory Council have said that increasing the price of carbon is essential if we are to hit our climate targets. However, carbon pricing is just one part of the solution.
“At set out in the Climate Action Plan, we must also scale up our production of renewables, increase the level of retrofitting, electrify transport and introduce changes to make our land use more sustainable.”
The transition away from peat, towards more sustainable, renewable energy sources, will have a significant impact on the Midlands and Bord na Móna workers.
Minister Bruton commented on this: “I am acutely aware of the impact that moving away from fossil fuels will have on some people. Just transition and protecting the most vulnerable is at the heart of the Climate Action Plan. Budget 2020 will support those most affected.”
Just transition in the 2020 budget
- €6m Just Transition Fund targeted at the Midlands. This funding will support retraining and reskilling workers and assist local communities and businesses in the midlands to adjust to the low carbon transition. There will be further consultation with the structures in place in the Midlands, including the Midlands Transition Team, on the application of the funding.
- €5m for bog restoration and rehabilitation which will restore bogs to their natural habitat and become sinks that absorb carbon. This programme will support the National Parks and Wildlife Service to restore 1,800 hectares of bog in seven counties, resulting in 28m tonnes of carbon stored over the next five years. It will create 70 jobs in year one rising to 100 as the programme develops.
- €20m to deliver new model to group housing upgrades together as set out in the Climate Action Plan. Targeted at the Midlands, this will support an estimated 400 jobs directly and indirectly, as well as significantly upgrading the social stock in the region during 2020.
In addition Minister Bruton announced that a Just Transition Commissioner will be appointed.
The Commissioner will engage with all relevant stakeholders in the Midlands including Bord na Móna, the Midland Regional Transition Team, as well as the National Economic and Social Council.
This appointment will be part of the government’s just transition plan, which is currently being led by the Department of an Taoiseach.
The Midlands will also be supported to draw down other Funds which are central to switching to a decarbonised economy
Protecting the most vulnerable in the budget
- A total of €52.8 million is being made available to retrofit the homes of people living in or at risk of energy poverty through the Warmer Homes Scheme. This represents the biggest ever allocation for the Warmer Homes Scheme – more than double the initial allocation for 2019. €13 million of this funding is ring-fenced revenue arising from the increase in the Carbon Tax.
- The changes to the Fuel Allowance Scheme led by the Department of Social Protection, will increase the income of households who get the fuel allowance by €2 per week which means an annual increase of €56.
The ring-fenced fund will also be used to fund climate measures, such as: new greenways and urban cycling pathways, pilots for sustainable agricultural measures, an increased contribution to the Green Climate Fund and extra investment in charging network and grants for electric vehicles.
Minister of State for Natural Resources, Community Affairs and Digital Development Sean Canney T.D., commented: “I very much welcome that the vision articulated earlier this year in the Government’s Climate Action Plan is now being brought to fruition with increased investment in areas like electric vehicles and building retrofitting.
“The principle of Just Transition is another vital element in moving from brown to green energy and it underlines our commitment to that principle that we are providing substantial support for our peat-producing regions and Bord na Móna in particular.”