Climate change is a complex issue that overwhelms us from every communication channel known to mankind. The information is there, but it loses its clarity due to its sheer volume. However, as the saying goes, “if you must eat an elephant, then do it in small bites.” Ireland may be a small bite in the global context of climate change, but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t search for opportunities that may lie in a threat, even an existential one like this.
According to the Irish Government’s most recent climate action plan (CAP 23), we are legally bound to reduce carbon emissions by 51% by 2030 (Baseline 2018). This means reducing electricity production emissions by 75%, building emissions by 45%, and agriculture by 25%. The estimated investment requirement to deliver the Irish Climate Action Plan is in excess of €125 billion, with investment in electric vehicles representing the largest single capital component, followed by €37 billion in renewable energy and grid investment and €35 billion in decarbonising Ireland’s house and building stock.
ESG investing is placing funding where environmental, social, and governance issues have been considered in the decision-making process. Conscientious capital. Profit with a purpose. Each of the three ESG pillars has a number of identified areas indicating where capital is best employed. This would be a good time to channel Irish ESG investment into assets that the world will need in the long term, assets we can sell for centuries.
Ernst and Young undertake a global survey every year to measure Ireland’s attractiveness as a location for foreign direct investment. The criteria in the decision chains are changing, and investment in the decarbonisation of Ireland’s energy system to accelerate progress towards a net-zero economy was highlighted as a necessary area of policy focus. Any policy missteps now, or worse still, state complacency could be regressive to the dependable flow of this investment in future years.
A recent Government policy announcement regarding offshore wind farms redirected about 20% of commercial output to green hydrogen production. Another mandate in the document was that all future offshore wind farms are built in designated marine areas which have yet to be identified and may not be for at least another year. Noel Cunniffe, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland, greeted the announcement as a “radical change in policy from Government” and one that would cause “massive levels of uncertainty” among those considering investing in Ireland’s tendency for windy weather.
Ireland is increasingly having to compete against other global nations going on the same decarbonisation journey and must provide consistent, long-term, and predictable government policy to remain internationally competitive and attractive. The planet’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity. Our brand as a sustainable economy is positive in the international investment community, and it’s not immoral to make some profit if it has a purpose. However, we must be careful as the wind can alter direction suddenly and unexpectedly.