It is important that we have clean and energy efficient buses, trucks and delivery vans in our cities. With people being encouraged to use more public transport we need to ensure that those vehicles are also environmentally friendly.
Transport accounts for 20% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions annually with around 51.6% of transport emissions coming from private car use and just over 16% come from the freight sector. Around 4.2% of emissions come from the public transport fleet (buses, taxis and trains).
Our welcome return to economic growth brings with it an increased number of vehicles on our roads and a rise in the number of kilometres driven. We must continue to invest in the public and sustainable transport network to develop capacity and increase attractiveness of alternatives to the private car use.
Investment in public transport led to an increase of almost 31 million journeys on subsidised public transport and commercial bus services since 2013, with an increase of 16 million passengers in 2017 (a 7% rise on 2016 figures) across Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Iarnród Éireann and Luas services. The private car remains a dominant mode of travel in Ireland accounting for 74% of all journeys, and over half of our land transport emissions.
It is vital that the public sector in particular sets a good example by having clean, energy efficient transport vehicles.
At the European Parliament moves have been made in the promotion of clean and energy-efficient road vehicles. The idea is that a certain proportion of vehicles – light-duty vehicles, trucks, buses – that are procured by the public sector should emit zero or low emissions of greenhouse gases (CO2) into the atmosphere to help fight air pollution in cities. Part of the proposals say that States and local governments should make part of the vehicles they buy or services ordered, in particular in public transport, low or zero emitters of CO2. The Directive mainly concerns the purchase of buses, lorries, delivery vans, but also passenger cars.
These proposed changes would certainly help with the promotion of using cleaner transport and would help tackle the issue of smog in our cities. This is just one element in how we can help with protecting the environment. We have a responsibility as citizens to ensure that we can do what we can to make the world as safe and as clean as possible for generations that will come after us.
After the vote in the European Parliament, the Council must adopt its position after which negotiations will follow. The adoption of the final shape of the Directive is planned for February 2019.
The Government announced plans in the Budget in relation to its plans for making improvements in relation to tackling these issues. The Green Public Transport Fund was established to support the uptake of low carbon, energy efficient technologies within the public transport sector and as set out in the National Development Plan.
In the Budget it was announced that in 2019, the Department of Communication, Climate Action and Environment will invest over €164 million in targeted measures to achieve Ireland’s energy efficiency and renewable energy objectives, in line with the Government’s National Mitigation Plan.