What is Ireland’s climate law?

Ireland’s climate law sets us on a course to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Written by spunout

Last Updated: Nov-27-23


Rising greenhouse gas emissions are pushing the planet closer to the brink of irreversible climate breakdown. Governments must take action to create deep and lasting change in how we live, work, and use resources. Passing climate legislation is essential to creating this much-needed change because it makes climate action commitments legally binding. This is especially important for countries like Ireland with high emissions. By passing climate law, the Irish Government is now legally obliged to meet its national and international emissions targets.

What is Ireland’s climate law?

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act was signed into law in 2021. It was passed in order to strengthen Ireland’s previous climate legislation. It ensures we meet our own climate goals and the international goals we have committed to. The Act sets in law the Irish Government’s long-term commitment to climate action. It also requires the development of an annual Climate Action Plan. The Climate Action Plan sets out specific actions the Government plans to take to meet the goals in the climate law.

What are Ireland’s climate goals?

Included in the climate law is the ‘national climate objective.’ This is Ireland’s long-term and legally binding emissions reduction target. The current objective is to achieve a climate-neutral economy by 2050.

A climate-neutral or net zero economy is an economy in which the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) released into the atmosphere is balanced or exceeded by the amount of GHGs removed. This goal is in line with Ireland’s obligations under the Paris Agreement and the EU’s objective to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest.

The Government plans to achieve this goal by using carbon budgets and sectoral emissions ceilings.

  • Carbon budget: The total amount of greenhouse gases the country can emit over five years in line with our national climate objective
  • Sectoral emissions ceiling: The maximum amount of greenhouse gas emissions a sector of the economy can produce during the five-year carbon budget period.

The Government has also set emission limits for different sectors in Ireland. These sectors include electricity, transport, industry and agriculture. If Ireland sticks to the carbon budget and sectoral emissions ceilings for this decade, we should see an overall reduction in emissions of 51% by 2030.

What are the benefits of achieving climate neutrality?

Aside from stabilising global warming and reducing potential loss and damage caused by climate change, a climate-neutral economy will bring many advantages to communities and society as a whole. Here are some of the benefits of achieving net zero emissions:

  • More sustainable economic growth and the creation of ‘green’ jobs
  • Less environmental pollution and improved health and wellbeing
  • Stronger food security
  • Protection and restoration of biodiversity
  • Healthier oceans, rivers, and lakes

Achieving climate neutrality through a just transition can also lead to a more equal and inclusive society for everyone. Learn more about a just transition and climate justice.

Is Ireland making progress towards our climate goals?

The Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) is an independent group of climate experts who advise the Government on Ireland’s response to the climate crisis. The CCAC publishes regular reports assessing Ireland’s progress towards the national climate objective.

The 2023 Annual Review report by the Council found that the Government has made progress with developing new climate policy. However, Ireland is projected to exceed its first two carbon budgets. We will also likely fall short of the 2030 target to halve greenhouse gas emissions.

The Council advises that climate action must be urgently accelerated to reduce the harmful effects of the crisis. Researchers, climate activists and NGOs have also expressed concern about whether the measures laid out in the annual Climate Action Plan will be drastic enough to reduce our emissions.

What can we do to help reach our climate goals?

The climate crisis affects us all. Therefore, it is everyone’s responsibility to take climate action. Fighting for climate justice can create a society in which human activities do not take a toll on the planet, and empowered communities thrive together.  Changing our behaviours, such as cutting down how much meat and dairy we eat, taking public transport, or reducing household waste, is a key part of tackling the climate crisis. However, it is also important that we take action together for our planet and use our voices to demand our government follows through on the promises laid out in the climate law.

Learn more about how you can take action for the climate:

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