Businesses will have to reduce their emissions by around 40% under the Government’s Climate Action Plan, which also warns failure to act means firms risk being left behind.
The blueprint says that the biggest share of enterprise emissions come from a small number of large alumina, food processing, beverages and cement manufacturing companies covered under the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
It says if businesses, particularly in the ETS, are to contribute to Ireland’s climate target objectives, then a “dramatic turnaround is required” from the sector’s recent trend of a 44.7%% increase in emissions between 2011 and 2018.
The plan claims that emissions from enterprise that fall outside the ETS are highly diverse, with a large number of Small and Medium Enterprises.
Some of those work with industrial gases with high global warming potential which are used in refrigeration, air conditioning and semiconductor manufacturing, it says.
It predicts those sectors outside the ETS will be incentivised by increases in the carbon tax, which is now set at €41 per ton of CO2 and is legally required to reach €100 per ton by 2030.
“Irish enterprise will be required to implement a detailed agenda of transition and change if it is to ensure that our sectors are climate resilient and can remain competitive in a decarbonising world,” it states.
The plan says these measures will include improving the energy efficiency of processes, buildings and transport, as well as replacing fossil fuels with renewables in processes, buildings and transport.
It says improvements will be needed in the way in which resources are used in the supply chain to reduce emissions and conform to circular economy principles.
Businesses will also need to be innovative across production, distribution and marketing to take advantage of the opportunities that arise and develop new skills and techniques as necessary.
It says the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Sustainable Energy Authority will promote investment and employment in decarbonisation and align their supports with emissions reduction.
An online Climate Toolkit for business is to be launched and new obligation to ensure a proportion of energy for heat comes from renewable sources will be introduced.
Longer-life and lower-carbon cement blends in public contracts will be prioritised, while the use of carbon-neutral low temperature heating in the food and beverages sector and hybrid high temperature heating in the industrial sector will be accelerated.
It says that while it is encouraging to see major companies committing to significant emissions reduction by 2030 and beyond, the level of ambition must become the norm across the enterprise sector.
“Companies and sectors that fail to decarbonise their activity across their entire business model will become increasingly uncompetitive, with potential far-reaching negative impacts for the economy – including undermining our long-term sustainable competitiveness and locking us into a redundant fossil-fuel based economic model,” it warns.
“However, embracing the transition will support further job creation through the development of new and emerging sectors.”
The plan recognises that some of the measures needed have mixed or negative business cases, but also says it is critical to bear in mind that change is inevitable.
“Given the strong global commitment to net-zero and the “race to the top”, maintaining the status quo is not an option,” it says.
“Failure to act carries a real risk of being left behind, producing outdated products for changing markets and consumer demands.”
The report points out that emissions in the enterprise sector fell by a third between 2005 and 2011 as a result of the economic recession but have since rebounded by over a quarter.
It points out how emissions from the mineral industry, primarily cement manufacturing, account for the most significant share of emissions in the sector.