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Government announces Sectoral Emissions Ceilings – setting Ireland on a pathway to turn the tide on climate change

The Government has reached agreement on Sectoral Emissions Ceilings which will ensure Ireland plays a leading role in combatting climate change and leave the planet in a better shape for our children.


The Emissions Ceilings will give us cleaner air, warmer homes, and a better quality of life. Every sector will play its part and this plan will help to secure the future of every sector, including farming.


The Ceilings set maximum limits on greenhouse gas emissions for each sector of the Irish economy to the end of the decade.


Crucially, the changes for agriculture will be voluntary and will allow farmers to play their part. There will be generous financial incentives in return with an additional financial package in Budget 2023.


The Sectoral Emissions Ceilings have been set for the electricity, transport, buildings, industry and agriculture sectors, delivering on a key Programme for Government commitment.


This will involve a big transformation for all parts of society and all organisations, and the Government intends to bring everyone along with us.


Commenting on the today’s announcement, Minister of the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, said:


“We’ve seen this summer how temperatures across Europe have soared and tens of thousands of people have been evacuated because of wildfires. The planet is clearly heating up rapidly and we need to take action quickly. By setting these targets, across six critical sectors of our economy, Ireland is stepping up to the plate in reducing our impact on an increasingly fragile planet.


The targets that have been set today are going to be challenging for all sectors but they are also fair, appropriate and, importantly, based on what is achievable. We have also agreed additional resources and commitments to scale up and speed up our progress on solar, off-shore wind, anaerobic digestion for nature, and agro-forestry. I have every faith that we will, together, reduce our overall economy-wide carbon emissions, year by year. This is not just the right thing to do for our environment and our planet; this is also the smart thing to do for our economy, and to protect ourselves against the high cost of fossil fuels.”


Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said:


“We must be the generation to turn the tide on climate change. Our planet is getting hotter by the day and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent.  It’s our responsibility to leave the world in a better shape than we inherited it.


“The enterprise sector is committing to a 35% reduction in emissions by 2030. As Minister, I will take the lead, helping our businesses to make the changes and take advantage of the opportunities that will come. We will provide advice and expertise, grants and loans to reduce energy use, increase the use of electricity and, in time, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage and other new technologies. We will also avail of the many business and employment opportunities that arise from climate action by becoming a producer and exporter of clean, secure and cheap renewable energy and fertilisers, a major retrofitting programme and a leader in new technologies like synthetic aviation fuels, autonomous vehicles, electric aircraft and robotics.


“I know that the reduction in agricultural emissions has been the most contentious. It’s a 25% reduction against a society-wide target of 51%. Farmers will play their part. They are up for the challenge and we will help them every step of the way. Sustainable, efficient, Irish food production is essential. In the future, the world will need more food not less.


“Meeting the target will be challenging. The Government decision is clear. There will be no coercion or compulsion. Rather, we will ask farmers for help. We need timber to help us build urgently-needed new homes. We need more solar energy and wind energy to provide a secure supply of affordable domestically produced electricity. We need biogas for heating and to reduce our dependence on imported natural gas. Farmers can help us by embracing these new opportunities. It’s the Government’s job to make it worthwhile and attractive financially and we will not be found wanting in that regard.


“We have agreed a Climate Law, carbon budgets and now sectoral ceilings. Our focus now must be on implementation.”


Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, said:


“Today the Government has agreed a pathway to a 51% cut in economy wide emissions by 2030. The emissions ceiling for agriculture has been set at a level requiring a 25% reduction by 2030. This falls within the target range assigned to the sector under Climate Action Plan 2021. I am pleased to have reached this conclusion as a way of offering certainty to our farm families and their businesses over the next decade.


“The Programme for Government and the Climate Act committed us to strong climate action. The world is facing a climate crisis, so such action is absolutely essential. It also recognises the special economic and social role of agriculture, and the importance of sustainable food production. I am satisfied that the agreement we have arrived at today strikes an appropriate balance in this regard.”


The Minister added: “This target reflects a very challenging but achievable ambition for the sector. The protection and enhancement of our sustainable food production system, while ensuring that agriculture plays its part in climate change mitigation, has been a priority for this Government. I am confident that farmers will embrace this challenge and, as Minister, I will stand full square behind our farmers on this journey to support them at every step.”



Further information


  • Electricity: 75%     From 10.5 MtCO2eq (2018) to 3 MtCO2eq (2030)
  • Transport: 50%     From 12 MtCO2eq (2018) to 6 MtCO2eq (2030)
  • Buildings (Commercial and Public) 45%       From 2 MtCO2eq (2018) to 1 MtCO2eq (2030)
  • Buildings (Residential) 40%    From 7 MtCO2eq (2018) to 4 MtCO2eq (2030)
  • Industry: 35%        From 7 MtCO2eq (2018) to 4 MtCO2eq (2030)
  • Agriculture: 25%  From 23 MtCO2eq (2018) to 17.25 MtCO2eq (2030)
  • Other*: 50%          From 2 MtCO2eq (2018) to 1 MtCO2eq (2030)


* = F-gases, Petroleum Refining and Waste


Finalising the Sectoral Emissions Ceiling for the Land-Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector has been deferred for 18 months to allow for the completion of the Land-Use Strategy. This strategy will include an examination of the latest developments in scientific knowledge relating to the sector’s emissions. As well as the planting of more trees, measures such as the restoration of wetlands will ultimately enable more carbon to be stored in our soil. A new Anaerobic Digestion for Nature programme will be a key part of this.


In addition, today’s agreement commits additional resources for solar (more than doubling the target to 5,500 MW), off-shore wind (moving from a target of 5,000 MW to 7,000 MW), green hydrogen (an additional 2,000 MW), agro-forestry and anaerobic digestion (up to 5.7 TWh of biomethane) – to further accelerate the reduction of overall economy-wide emissions.


The development of Sectoral Emission Ceilings and the introduction of Carbon Budgets were provided for in the The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021. The Act required the Climate Change Advisory Council to prepare, publish and submit a proposed Carbon Budget programme that would support a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, relative to 2018 emission levels, and the legally-binding national climate objective of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.


The announcement of the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings comes on the back of the EPA’s latest report which outlined that national total emissions increased by 4.7% in 2021 (from 2020), and were 1% higher than emissions in 2019. This underlines the importance of putting actions, supports and the expert advice needed by all six sectors into place quickly to bridge the gap and to move on to achieve the economy wide target by 2030.


5.25 MtCO2eq of annual emissions reductions are currently unallocated on an economy-wide basis for the second carbon budget period (2026-2030).  These will be allocated following a mid-term review and identification of additional abatement measures. This approach is consistent with both the Programme for Government and the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021.


How the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings came into being


The Climate Change Advisory Council’s proposed Carbon Budget programme comprised three five-year carbon budgets for the periods 2021-2025, 2026-2030 and 2031-2035, with the third period being provisional. This was published and submitted to the Minister in October 2021.


Following a review and consultation process that included input from other Government Departments, a review by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action, and a public consultation, the Carbon Budget programme was adopted by the Government on 24th February this year. Motions to approve the Carbon Budgets were passed in the Seanad on 5th April and the Dáil on 6th April 2022, thus bringing the Carbon Budgets into effect on the latter of these two dates.


When the Carbon Budgets came into effect, the Minister prepared, for Government approval, Sectoral Emissions Ceilings to determine how each sector of the economy will contribute to achieving the carbon budget. Under Section 6C of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, the Sectoral Emission Ceilings required Government (Cabinet) approval.


The process for preparing Sectoral Emissions Ceilings for Government approval included the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications undertaking extensive engagement with all relevant Departments and Agencies. Furthermore, the Department engaged with its research and modelling partners in the Climate Action Modelling Group and commissioned additional external technical support – to provide expert research and modelling assistance to inform and support the preparation and delivery of the ceilings. As part of the process, Minister Ryan engaged extensively with Ministerial colleagues across the sectoral areas.


Next steps


Climate Action Plan 2021 and the accompanying Annex of Actions provide a detailed plan for taking decisive action to achieve a 51% reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The plan lists actions needed to deliver on our climate targets (and had set indicative ranges of emissions reductions for each sector of the economy, before the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings had been finalised). It will be updated annually to ensure alignment with our legally binding economy-wide Carbon Budgets and Sectoral Emissions Ceilings. The next Climate Action Plan is due to be published by the end of 2022.







Our climate is changing, and we need to protect our planet, ourselves, and future generations by cutting emissions and creating green jobs. The science is indisputable and the effects are already clear. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, with increased risks for global food supplies and security. We know we have to act, and by acting now we can build a cleaner, greener economy and society, creating opportunities for all. Globally, we need to dramatically reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we are putting into the atmosphere to have any hope of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, keeping our Earth habitable, and our ecosystems functioning.


Programme for Government


In the Programme for Government and the The Climate Act 2021, Ireland committed to halving our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050 at the latest. The Climate Action Plan is how we do it.


Climate Action Plan


The Climate Action Plan 2021 provided a detailed plan for taking decisive action to achieve a 51% reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and setting us on a path to reach net-zero emissions by no later than 2050, as committed to in the Programme for Government and set out in the Climate Act 2021.


The plan lists the actions needed to deliver on our climate targets. It set out indicative ranges of emissions reductions for each sector of the economy. It will be updated annually to ensure alignment with our legally-binding economy-wide Carbon Budgets and Sectoral Emissions Ceilings. This plan makes Ireland one of the most ambitious countries in the world on climate.


Proposed ranges of emissions reductions by Sector in Climate Action Plan 2021


Prior to agreeing the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings, Climate Action Plan 2021 had set indicative ranges of emissions reductions for each sector of the economy as follow:



2018 Emissions (MtCO2eq.)

2030 Target Emissions (MtCO2eq.)

% Reduction Relative to 2018

























Unallocated Savings





What is a Carbon Budget?


A Carbon Budget represents the total amount of emissions, measured in tonnes of CO2 equivalent, that may be emitted by a country, region, etc, during a specific time period.


The Climate Change Advisory Council’s three five-year economy-wide carbon budgets cover the periods 2021-2025, 2026-2030 and 2031-2035 (although the budget for the third period is provisional). All greenhouse gas emissions and all relevant sectors are included in the carbon budgets.


They are as follows:


  • 2021-2025: 295 Mt CO2 eq. an average of -4.8% per annum for the first budget period.
  • 2026-2030: 200 Mt CO2 eq. an average of -8.3% per annum for the second budget period.
  • 2031-2035: 151 Mt CO2 eq. an average of -3.5% per annum for the third provisional budget.