Ireland’s first environment strategy announced

Ireland’s first environment strategy for national clean air is underway following the EU’s Clean Air Dialogue last month.

A spokesperson for the Department of Communication, Climate Action & Environment told The Liberty, “Nitrogen oxides [which can be a form of greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change] found in air pollution is of particular concern and measures to tackle the pollutant will form a central part of the Department’s deliberations in the setting up of the forthcoming clean air strategy.”

The largest source of emissions in Ireland is from diesel cars, which accounted for 70% of all cars sold last year. An Environmental Protection Agency report last year estimated that pollution is the cause for 1,200 deaths annually in Ireland and a rising number of health studies have already prompted the mayors of Paris, Athens and Madrid to ban diesel outright by the year 2025.

Government policy has long favoured diesel as a way of lowering Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions. Diesel is commonly referred to as a ‘green fuel’ but the new strategy could lead to a change of approach.

Last month, a study by UK consumer group Which found that diesel cars are emitting nine times the established limit of nitrogen oxide fumes into the air. As early as 2001, studies found that diesel fumes were far worse than petrol for sufferers of respiratory problems. The World Health Organisation has now identified the fume as being an independent factor in causing or worsening these conditions.

Nitrogen oxide emissions came to public attention during ‘Dieselgate’- the 2015 scandal involving Volkswagen, when it emerged that the car manufacturer was installing ‘defeat devices’ into their cars to cheat on emissions tests.

In 2015, The Minister for Transport, Shane Ross, said: “It may also be necessary, in future years, to consider a ban on the sale or import of petrol and diesel-fuelled cars — particularly if a similar approach to restricting sales of such vehicles is being adopted across the rest of Europe.” 

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