The Climate Change Advisory Council is calling on the Government to take “swift and decisive” action to support households and communities manage rising energy costs facing into “one of the most challenging winters in a generation”.
Publishing its annual review for 2022, the group said Ireland’s dependence on fossil fuels is a “root cause” of high energy costs, in addition to the current supply instability due to the war in Ukraine.
The council said the transition to “more affordable, clean and secure energy must be urgently progressed”, while the Government must “focus on measures that can be immediately deployed to assist those most in need in the coming months and in the years ahead”.
“Developing renewable resource must be considered as being in the overriding public interest. Targets for onshore wind and solar renewable electricity should be significantly increased, with faster roll out of these and the associated grid reinforcement.
“Offshore wind will play a critical role in the low carbon transition and it is imperative that steps for planning and consenting, as well as developing the grid, progress at pace. Strong political and policy support is needed at a national and local level for the rapid delivery of renewable resources,” the group said.
Coming into the winter, the council said the most vulnerable in society must be protected, “particularly those in receipt of the winter fuel allowance and those living in the worst performing buildings”.
“There are measures that can be introduced immediately that will have a significant impact, including accelerating the rollout of home energy upgrades such as the installation of attic insulation, draught proofing, regular servicing of boilers, installation of heating controls, and simplifying the paperwork to access grants,” the council’s chair Marie Donnelly said.
“These low cost and easily applied measures will support vulnerable households in the short term making a difference to people’s energy bills, health and wellbeing,” she added.
Ms Donnelly also called for the reduction in public transport fares, announced earlier this year as part of the Government’s package of measures to address the cost-of-living crisis, to be retained and extended.
On Monday, the Department of Transport confirmed the reduced fares for under-24s will be extended to private transport operators.
Commenting on the Government’s sectoral climate targets, published in July, the council said the upcoming National Climate Action Plan must set a clear pathway for all sectors to achieve their climate change goals.
Concluding its assessment for the year, the council said the State “is not adequately prepared”, with Ms Donnelly adding: “Recent extreme weather events across the globe including droughts and floods show that the impacts of climate change are immediate and require urgent action in respect of mitigation and adaptation.
“While government investment must increase with unambiguous and targeted plans in place, business, civic and community organisations can and must play a pivotal role in supporting people to overcome the current energy crisis and in helping Ireland to deliver on its climate obligations.”