Insights Blog

Many developments over the last month likely to be of interest to the transport sector continue to relate to efforts to decarbonise the economy.

At an international level, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution No. 76/300 recognising the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The resolution is not legally binding on UN Member States but its advocates point to the success of previous resolutions in prompting countries to increase constitutional protections, as well as examples of success in pleading international human rights law before domestic courts to spur Governments and corporates to take more action to reduce emissions (such as in Urgenda and Milieudefensie).

In Ireland, the Government published emissions reductions to be achieved in each sector (by 2030 compared to 2018). These are set within the framework of the Carbon Budget Programme made under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Acts 2015 and 2021. They are published here, and the ambition for the transport sector is evident, as shown below:

In terms of how the ceilings are implemented, the legal obligation under the Acts is that each Minister, in so far as practicable, must: (a) perform their functions in a manner consistent with the carbon budget, and (b) in the performance of their functions comply with the sector emissions ceiling for the sector for which they have responsibility. The relevant Ministers are required to attend the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action to give an account of progress and the Committee may in reply make recommendations, to which the Minister must respond.

Also within this framework, the Government is updating the Climate Action Plan and has called for expert evidence by 20 September 2022. The plan contains many near-term actions specific to the transport sector (and the current plan with its annex of actions is available here).

Availability of electricity from renewable sources will be vital for decarbonising transport. The Government announced it would allocate additional resources to more than double the 2030 target for solar to 5500 MW; to increase the off-shore wind target from 5000 MW to 7000 MW; and to bring on an additional 2000 MW of green hydrogen as well as up to 5.7 TWh of biomethane. In the EU, there was a significant announcement by President von der Leyen that, in light of electricity prices, the EU is working on intervention and reform of the market, comprising decoupling the electricity market from gas prices fairly soon, followed by structural reform beginning next year. This seems at least partly aimed at facilitating a situation whereby a Member State (such as Spain) can subsidise input fuels without subsidising electricity prices in neighbouring States.

Efforts to develop an updated regulatory framework for a hydrogen market continue. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment & Climate Action published its opinion on the proposals for a recast Regulation & new Directive on the internal market in renewable and natural gas and hydrogen. The Committee makes recommendations which can be described as seeking more ambitious proposals. Hydrogen Mobility Ireland published a paper, Policy to Enable Green Hydrogen in Ireland, along with a report on the Benefits of Hydrogen in Ireland. It suggests that a dedicated hydrogen support scheme is needed, as well as initial capex support for vehicles and harmonisation of standards. Meanwhile, it was reported in IJGlobal that 14 hydrogen-powered trains developed by Alstom were deployed for passenger use in a 100% hydrogen operated route in Germany, and that the UK is also seeking to deploy hydrogen trains.

Other news in transport is the publication of the NTA’s Public Transport Investment Report for 2021. The NTA states that its funding for the Public Transport Investment Programme grew by 78% in 2021 compared to 2020 and provides a breakdown, the largest tranche going to heavy rail safety and development. This month the NTA also reactivated the electric small public service vehicle grant scheme 2022 – vehicles must be licenced by the end of the year to get funding.