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Bioenergy sector offers unlimited potential in addressing climate change challenges – IrBEA

The Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) welcomes the statement made November 7 on Climate Change by Minister for Communication, Climate Change and Environment Richard Bruton TD but are disappointed that it lacks specifics and a focus on the potential for renewable energy in addressing climate change. IrBEA cautioned that the country is "in real danger" of losing its green image with the lack of action over the past 15 years and urged the Minister to show progress on emissions targets.

IrBEA welcomes the statement made November 7 on Climate Change by Minister for Communication, Climate Change and Environment Richard Bruton TD but is disappointed that it lacks specifics and a focus on the potential for renewable energy in addressing climate change. Ireland is “in real danger” of losing its green image with the lack of action.

Speaking at the EU Climate-KIC Summit held in Dublin Castle, Minister for Communication, Climate Change and Environment Richard Bruton TD acknowledged that “Ireland is far off course” to achieve the carbon dioxide (CO2) targets that the country has committed to achieving and that it will “require a significant step change” across government to make Ireland “a leader in responding to climate change, not a follower.”

Being a leader means acting now, stretching ourselves and seizing the enterprise opportunities in a low carbon economy, including the new circular and bioeconomies. Being a follower means the final costs of adjustment are much higher and opportunities much lower or completely lost. It will require a revolution in how we live. Every person, every community, every business, every home and every school will have to make changes in the way we live and work and learn. Nothing less will do if we are to make the changes that are needed to create a sustainable future for everyone, said Minister Bruton.

Minister Bruton also highlighted the role pricing and carbon tax has in influencing public and private sector behaviour and investment choice.

We must discourage new private or public investments being made now which lock us into high carbon patterns of living. Increasing carbon taxes will have a strong role to play and I believe that we need to set a trajectory for increasing carbon taxes between now and 2030. It is important that people have this certainty, Minister Bruton said.

In addition, the Minister noted that innovation “can be a very powerful tool in tackling intractable problems” and he pointed out that the government has launched:

  • an EUR 500 million Climate Action Fund inviting applications in a competitive process from projects that generate significant carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction in innovative and cost-effective ways capable of being scaled up.
  • an EUR 5000 million Disruptive Technology Fund inviting applications in a competitive process from projects collaborative enterprise driven partnerships which will develop, deploy and commercialise disruptive technologies in areas where Ireland can establish a competitive advantage including smart and sustainable food production and processing and decarbonising the energy system.

Lacks specifics and details on bioenergy use

The Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) welcomed Minister Bruton’s statement, but are disappointed that it lacks specifics and a focus on the potential for renewable energy in addressing climate change pointing out that climate action is not only a challenge but also a considerable opportunity for Ireland to become a leader in this space.

We welcome the statement from Minister Bruton but are disappointed that it lacks specifics and detail regarding the use of renewable energy sources such as biomass, biogas, biofuels and energy crops in the drive towards reducing carbon emissions and addressing climate change. Bioenergy and renewable energy sources offer untapped potential in addressing the climate change challenges that we face as we work towards decarbonising the economy, said Seán Finan, CEO of IrBEA.

IrBEA stressed that bioenergy is Europe’s largest renewable source providing over half of all renewable energy.

Many EU members states have embraced the use of bioenergy for many years ago and Ireland needs to urgently follow suit. We need to use the best practice and knowledge available from other EU member states to drive the renewable energy sector here. Meaningful policy interventions at a government level that support investment and use of renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuel is immediately required, Finan said.

Ireland is currently only getting 3 percent of its energy from biomass with the majority of this is used in the sawmilling sector for drying lumber.

The skills/resources needed for the expansion of the bioenergy industry offer massive potential in terms of jobs and economic activity. The skillsets and personnel required are closely matched to those that will become available from scaling back on peat and coal reliance. Ireland has a natural advantage in its people and in its resources, none more so than our ability to grow wood and energy crops better than most other countries around the world said Finan.

He pointed out that there are “real opportunities” for local job creation, fuel cost reductions, enhancing Irelands energy balance of trade as well as the “obvious and vital reduction” in carbon emissions. Finan concluded that IrBEA is looking forward to working with Minister Bruton and his department in removing the roadblocks which exist in the development of the Irish Bioenergy sector.

IrBEA looks forward to working with the Minister and his Department in the coming months and years to develop the full potential of Irelands Bioenergy sector. The immediate launch of the full SSRH scheme would be a very welcome first step. We want to ensure Ireland becomes a leader in responding to climate change and reducing emissions by developing and realising the potential of the Irish bioenergy sector, Finan said.

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