Reconciling Ireland’s climate ambitions with climate policy and practice: challenges, contradictions and barriers

Amanda Slevin*, John Barry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Downloads (Pure)


Often perceived as a green nation, Ireland’s climate action reputation ranges from being regarded as a climate ‘laggard’ to being applauded as one of the first states to introduce supply-side ‘keep it in the ground’ (KIIG) legislation. In line with UNFCCC and IPCC advice, Ireland has committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 51% by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050. However such ambitions have not yet translated into sufficient transformations required to achieve the goals of a Paris Agreement compliant pathway. Major challenges surround Ireland’s transition to net zero, for example, the country’s fossil fuel dependency means oil and gas (mostly imported) account for around 80% of primary energy while emissions from agriculture, transport and electricity generation are increasing, rather than decreasing. Ireland is failing to meet national and EU GHG reduction targets, has had to buy emissions quotas to comply with legal requirements, and its interim 2030 target is below the EU’s Climate Law ambition. Contradictory policies, especially those influenced by ROI’s neoliberal orientation, undermine climate action and mean Ireland struggles to achieve GHG reductions, despite the state’s climate change legislation and policies. Concentrating on supply-side climate policy, this article examines key issues hampering Ireland’s ability to reconcile its climate ambitious with policy and practice. Adopting a critical political economy analysis, we explore multi-level drivers of climate and energy policies, examining challenges like the war in Ukraine, which prompted the Irish state to re-consider where and how it sources gas and oil, in turn threatening existing KIIG measures. In critically analysing challenges and contradictions, we identify multiple ideological, political and economic factors, in particular, the neoliberal, globalised economic model influencing the State’s current unsustainable, risky and contradictory policy direction. We conclude by articulating specific barriers hampering Ireland’s climate ambitions that must be addressed to enable a just transition to a sustainable future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-48
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2024


  • Climate action
  • climate breakdown
  • climate emergency
  • climate policy
  • energy policy
  • hydrocarbon extractivism
  • supply-side policy
  • ‘keep it in the ground'
  • gas and oil
  • fossil fuels
  • Irish political economy
  • Corrib gas
  • Irish State
  • Ireland
  • ‘Keep it in the ground’
  • Gas and oil
  • Climate breakdown
  • Climate emergency
  • Supply-side policy
  • Energy policy
  • Fossil fuels
  • Hydrocarbon extractivism
  • Climate change
  • Climate policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Reconciling Ireland’s climate ambitions with climate policy and practice: challenges, contradictions and barriers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this