An Taisce is accusing the Government of exploiting "loopholes to make nonsense of climate goals".

The charity, which Ireland's National Trust, has issued a scathing appraisal of the country's commitment to environmental concerns.

A spokesman said: "Ireland’s reputation in the international community has been badly damaged in recent years by revelations of our tolerance for ‘creative accounting’ that has allowed foreign firms, including vulture funds masquerading as charities, to avoid paying tax on billions of euros of income.

"Now, it seems that Ireland has done it again, and this time the creative accounting is in the series of loopholes the Irish Government has negotiated with the EU to allow us to almost completely shirk all requirements on carbon emissions reductions.

"According to a newly built ‘Carbon Market Watch’ online tool, developed by Transport and Environment (Brussels based NGO), Ireland has managed to water down its commitment to carbon cuts from 2020 to 2030 to a ludicrous 0.4 per cent.

"This is a completely meaningless action that simply serves to sabotage EU-wide efforts to stem dangerous climate change in the little time remaining.

"No other EU country has achieved as outrageous a reduction in its carbon-cutting obligations. According to the Transport and Environment (T&E) online calculator, the ‘total loopholes’ exploited by Ireland between now and 2030 amount to almost 70 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO₂).

"Across the EU28, the average 2030 target will be 23 per cent, down from the slated 30 per cent ambition, but still light years ahead of Ireland’s contribution.

"The biggest sleight of hand that Ireland has availed of to fiddle the figures is to claim huge allowances for ‘LULUCF offsets’.

"These are credits for changes in land use, specifically tree planting or managing cropland and grassland, to offset agricultural and other emissions.

"However, any forestry expansion being proposed in Ireland is simply to grow forestry that will within a decade or two be then cut down and burned as biomass, meaning much of the alleged ‘carbon savings’ go straight back into the atmosphere as CO₂."

John Gibbons of An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee added: “This Government, headed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, is leading Ireland further and further down a road to climate ruin.

"As the Taoiseach himself said in November 2015, 'Either we act now or it will be too late to curb rising temperatures and limit the damage to our planet'.

"The time for excuses and equivocation is over, it’s time the Irish public demanded Mr Kenny and his government made good on his promises."

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