The Global Footprint Network reports that humanity is currently consuming natural resources 1.7 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. The global infrastructure already locks in 95% of our carbon budget. Ocean acidity is 26% higher than in pre-industrial times and is projected to increase from 100% to 150% by 2100. These rates are alarming – but the impact of climate change is hardly a new threat. According to the Government’s climate action plan, Ireland is ‘way off course’ in tackling climate change compared to the rest of Europe. As things stand, achieving the Government’s aim of net zero carbon energy systems is set to become a momentous mission. But Ireland’s mindset is shifting, and if we are to meet the global targets it’s important that every household, business and individual plays their part to make radical changes to energy, transport and waste management.
Climate change is an energy issue
More than 80% of the CO2 emissions in EU-27 countries are from production or consumption of energy. We use energy at every moment throughout our lives, whether through heating or cooling our homes and offices, or producing and manufacturing things we own – from toys all the way to cars.
The continued growth in productivity and progress of human civilization have long been linked with our capability to harness energy resources. This dependency increased with economic and industrial development. With an expanding global economy, along with the addition of nearly two billion people to the global population within the next 30 years, its predicted that our energy needs will increase by more than 40% by 2040. The rise will be required to power our buildings and homes, together with meeting our needs for cooling, transportation and a connected lifestyle.
It’s clear, therefore, that climate change is an energy issue. The increased use of energy results in a cumulative growth in emission rates and will cause Ireland to be blown more than 25% off course. To meet the 2030 net zero target, Ireland will need to cut its emissions by at least 7.6% a year for the next decade if it is serious about reaching the targets set out in the Paris Agreement.
Rethinking the way we live with energy
We cannot accept a world where the end-to-end energy system losses amount to a staggering 60%. We should leverage technology, embarking on a different path to a net zero carbon world and limit the reckless damage we bring to societies and economies. Through digitisation, we are forced to rethink the way we manage energy, which can help curb emissions and keep Ireland on track to meet our emissions reduction targets. The combination of electrification and decarbonisation of electricity is the only way to cut, over time, the carbon intensity of energy. Electricity is, indisputably, the most efficient energy vector at the final point-of-use. It is also the only practical option on the table to decarbonize energy and the economy.
Ireland needs to play its part by decarbonising its electricity generation and the energy landscape transformation in the long run needs to be accelerated. One solution could be through wind power. Wind is currently the dominant renewable energy technology in Ireland and proving to be highly attractive to range of investors. In 2019, wind energy in Ireland grew by 463MW, taking the countries installed capacity to 4.1GW. Indications are that 2020 might be another bumper year for wind energy generation in Ireland.
Time for action
Ireland can no longer stray on the edge of climate action. Even in tumultuous economic times, almost two-thirds of adults in Ireland believe that it remains important, according to the recent Friends of the Earth Ireland survey. There has been a huge shift in public opinion relating to environmental issues, and a growing belief that the government needs to prioritise climate change action. The time to get serious about climate change is now.