Energy Minister Alex White has said that he believes there is “only a 50:50 chance” of an agreement at December’s UN conference on climate change in Paris. The minister, speaking at an Engineers Ireland lunch earlier today, said: “The French are showing considerable leadership and will do everything they can do deliver an agreement but, reading between the lines when talking to the EU Commissioner recently, I didn’t detect undiluted optimism. I’d say there is a 50:50 chance of an agreement.”
The minister said a significant diplomatic engagement was required and warned that “we have to translate targets into action in our own country”. White added that there was a view that the EU’s 2009 targets were unrealistic and warned that it would be a “big challenge” for Ireland to meet the 2020 levels. He said Ireland received some concessions with regard to the agricultural sector but he added that “we can’t always be going cap in hand” to the EU looking for exemptions.
Separately, White said the Energy White Paper, due to be published in September, would be a balanced document that would attempt to unify energy policy. “There are tensions naturally,” he said, but “energy policy has had, and will continue to have, a central role to play in creating the conditions for our return to economic growth and job creation. In January of this year, Ernst and Young reported that the energy sector, as a whole, contributed €5.4 billion to the all-island economy in 2013.”
He said a common accusation thrown at government was that it only looked at wind – something he strongly denied. “We are not stuck on one; solar and biomass will play a part in the short and medium term, too. There has been a significant reduction in costs with regard to solar. How exactly we configure supports is complex, there will be consultation and we will listen to what people have to say.” White also questioned whether it was right for the government to choose specific technologies and that there were different views on its role.
He also pointed out that Ireland had the potential to be a focal point for the international marine renewable industry. “Over time, the introduction of ocean energy into Ireland’s renewables portfolio will result in an indigenous ocean sector with significant economic and employment benefits. Between 2013 and 2016, €16.8 million was added to our multi-annual ocean energy development budget, bringing the total cumulative funding to €26.3 million.”
The minister said he would continue to “aggressively push” the energy efficiency agenda across all sectors of the economy. “A number of important landmarks were achieved over the lifetime of the first two National Energy Efficiency Action Plans, including the launch of the Energy Efficiency Fund, the establishment of the National Energy Services Framework as well as a comprehensive suite of supports for commercial and public sector bodies.
“Additionally, my department will spend €44 million of capital funding this year on energy efficiency programmes. These various programmes support more than 3,000 jobs in the construction sector,” he said.