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Environmental groups deliver devastating critique of the Government's Climate Action Plan

More than 30 environmental and human rights groups have delivered a devastating critique of the Government's Climate Action Plan describing it as lacking detail, ambition and urgency.

"This would have been a great plan if this was 10 years ago," said Oisín Coghlan, director of Friends of the Earth, one of the 33 member groups of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition.

The groups say the plan falls far short of the measures recommended by the all-party Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action. The committee identified measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5-10% per year up to 2030 while the Government's action plan aims for just a 2% annual reduction.

The coalition says that in terms of meeting our obligations under the Paris Agreement, the lower target "is not an acceptable or effective pathway".

"A key failure is the lack of any real commitment to immediate, significant and sustained reductions over the next decade," it says.

On transport, agriculture, land use, forestry and buildings, it says: "The plan ignores, does not adopt, or weakens some of the recommendations and timelines proposed by the Joint Oireachtas Committee."

There are no specific measures aimed at reducing the dependency on private cars as the primary means of travel and, instead of focusing on increasing public transport and cycling infrastructure, the plan is over-reliant on "over-ambitious and unrealistic electric vehicle targets". It also has no vision for sustainable transport in rural areas.

On agriculture, the coalition says: "What is put forward is a business-as-usual approach that will do little to ensure reductions in a sector where emissions are projected to rise over the next decade. The plan fails to acknowledge that actual mitigation will only be achieved if proposed measures include, at least, a reverse of recent increases in the national herd and a reduction in the use of nitrogen fertiliser."

Native woodlands and peatlands are overlooked despite their potential for carbon capture and the sea is excluded entirely in an omission described as "bizarre" for an island nation.

In relation to the dire energy rating of much of the country's housing stock, the coalition says it is disappointing that the Oireachtas Committee's recommendation of retrofitting 800,000 homes by 2030 is reduced to 500,000 and that there is little detail as to how even this number is to be achieved.

Mr Coghlan said one strength of the plan is its commitment to a new governance structure with each Government department accountable for operating within an assigned carbon budget, answerable to the Taoiseach for any failures, and overseen by a new Climate Action Council.

But he said there must be no delay in publishing and passing the law underpinning the structures: "We are very glad they have adopted this but there is not a day to waste."