By Suzanne Pender
CARLOW County Council is obliged to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 51% within the next seven years. The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment), Act 2021 set out a national carbon reduction target of 51% by 2030 and Carlow is also compelled to meet that figure.
At May’s meeting of Carlow County Council, Alex Hamilton from the Southeast Energy Agency outlined how the local authority has begun this process, presenting a detailed report of the council’s current GHG emissions across the various sectors. The GHG emissions for Co Carlow were also outlined, with the council expected to influence, facilitate and advocate other sectors in the county and its citizens to follow suit with GHG reductions.
The sectors analysed included transport, buildings, public lighting, agriculture and manufacturing, with agriculture recording the highest emissions (38.9%) of the county’s total.
Co Carlow’s total emissions were 909.1KCO2, with a target of 445.5ktCO2 for 2030, while Carlow County Council’s total emissions were 2.56ktCO2, with a 2030 target of 1.25ktCO2.
Cllr Arthur McDonald asked what the implications were of not achieving those targets. He was also critical of the EPA’s actions, saying they were “hanging their heads”.
“At the end of the day, if these organisations are not standing up, how can we expect ordinary people to do this?” he said.
Cllr Adrienne Wallace was highly critical of the Green Party, stating that despite being in government they had done little on issues like supporting people who wished to retrofit their homes and increase their BER rate.
Cllr Tommy Kinsella described the report as “frightening”, particularly for farmers. “What measures are needed, who will oversee this, and what are the consequences of not reaching the target?” he asked.
Cllr Fintan Phelan called for “concrete action”, while cllr Michael Doran asked if emissions had increased or decreased since 2018.
Ms Hamilton stated that a number of the councillors’ questions were for government to answer, but added that Ireland had not met its environmental targets in 2020 and therefore had to pay fines to Europe.
On a positive note, Ms Hamilton confirmed that the council was on its way to meeting its target.
Cllr Fergal Browne pointed out that as a school principal he had seen how schools had begun to cut down on their energy costs; however, Covid had called for increased ventilation in classrooms and this had an impact on energy costs. “Energy usage and costs have gone up as a result,” he said.
Cllr Andy Gladney remarked on the pressure felt by farmers and asked if they “would be reimbursed” for their efforts in reducing emissions.
Ms Hamilton agreed that “everything is achievable, but at what cost”? And she accepted that rising costs had forced people to consider what is “cost optimal”. She accepted also that Covid-19 has had an impact.
Director of services Padraig O’Gorman stated that while the penalty for not achieving these targets had “not yet been asserted, everyone knows the importance of achieving the targets”.