CAP23 outlines new transport measures

As part of Climate Action Plan 2023, Minister Eamon Ryan TD has called for a new framework to inform transform policy and enable the sector to meet its emissions reductions targets.

The first Climate Action Plan update to be published since the passage of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 identifies 17 high-impact measures and ongoing work-programmes. These include:

• improved land-use planning and spatial integration;

• enhancements across public transport;

• active travel and EV charging infrastructure; and

• developing strategies and communications campaigns aimed at driving behavioural change away from traditional fossil fuelled private car journeys to more sustainable mobility options.

CAP23 states that fleet electrification and use of biofuels will continue to provide the most significant share of emissions abatement in the medium term. “Vehicle targets, while unchanged, have been reframed as a percentage share of total fleet and new registrations, to better embed our vehicle strategy within our wider Sustainable Mobility Policy,” the report outlines.

Speaking upon the document’s publication in December 2022, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan TD said: “Over decades, we have built our country, our towns and cities, around the car and that is just not sustainable. Apart from achieving our climate objectives, the systemic changes mapped out in this new Climate Action Plan will enable a healthier, cleaner, more connected transport system for everyone.”

Carbon budget challenges

Given the increase in a targeted reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector in CAP23 to 50 per cent by 2030, the latest publication has revised the carbon budget for the period. The Sectoral Emission Ceilings are:

• Carbon budget 1: 54 MtCO2eq;

• Carbon budget 2: 37 MtCO2eq;

• Emissions abatement (on 2018): 50 per cent; and

• Emissions up to 2021: 10.9 MtCO2eq.

“Though not yet at risk of a projected failure to comply with its sectoral emissions ceiling, the need to substantially accelerate transport emissions abatement is clear.”
Climate Action Plan 2023

The constraints on travel in 2020 as a result of Covid-19 saw transport sector emissions levels falling to 10.3 MtCO2eq, relative to its 12.2 MtCO2eq emissions baseline. 2021 saw a 6.1 per cent increase in emissions over 2020 levels, largely driven by the cessation of public health restrictions that had artificially reduced transport demand.

20.2 per cent of the first sectoral carbon budget was expended in 2021. While this level is consistent with the sector being compliant with its carbon budget to 2025, a further increase in transport emissions is expected in 2022. “Though not yet at risk of a projected failure to comply with its sectoral emissions ceiling, the need to substantially accelerate transport emissions abatement is clear,” CAP23 states.


A report by the OECD has stated that Ireland’s transport model “fosters growing car use and emissions by design”. In recognition of the OECD report’s findings, Minister Ryan has brought forward a new framework for the transport sector known as Avoid-Shift-Improve. Minister Ryan broke down the framework:

Avoid: “Developing services, communities, and infrastructure in such a manner as to avoid the need to travel as much as we do today.”

Shift: “Improving the relative attractiveness of sustainable travel modes such as public transport, cycling, and walking, to shift away from car use; this will facilitate increased use of lower-carbon modes and reduce the percentage of total journeys that are made by private car (modal share) from over to 70 per cent (today) to just over 50 per cent in 2030.”

Improve: “Complement these measures by increasing the proportion of EVs in our car fleet to 30 per cent by 2030, which will improve the efficiency of the national car fleet. Electrification of the freight and public transport sector will also be key.”

Modelling recalibration

A recalibrated decarbonisation pathway has been developed using the National Transport Authority’s (NTA) Regional Modelling System. The process came up with potential measures which can enable the 50 per cent emissions reduction target, grouping measures in four broad packages:

Promoting behavioural change by incentivising more sustainable forms of travel: This could include road-space reallocation and expanding car-free urban core centres; improvements to school transport options and modes; and complementary measures that help to reduce the need to travel.

Improvements to public transport availability and competitiveness: This would increase availability of rural transport and inter-urban connections; ramping-up the frequency and reliability of public transport through priority infrastructure and better integration of services; and reducing public transport fares (the modelled scenario considered a 50 per cent reduction relative to 2018 prices).

Disincentivising private vehicle use: This may include removal of free workplace parking; minimum parking charges introduced in all urban areas and application of congestion charges for journeys across marked cordons. Consideration will also be given to implementing an increase in fuel costs (modelled as an increase of 65 per cent by 2030 relative to 2018 prices, incorporating already planned carbon tax increases) if other measures are not deemed successful.

Harnessing the potential of new technology: This would support the decarbonisation of transport, including through electrification, increased biofuel blending, vehicle technology improvements, and the use of open data for mobility services.

Minister Ryan said upon CAP23’s publication: “While we need to electrify our transport system, we can also improve our wellbeing by reducing the need to travel in the first place and switching to sustainable modes where possible.”

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