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Transport and climate action: Making your travel sustainable - economically, socially and environmentally

Published: 19 December 2019
From: Department of the Taoiseach

1. Introduction

A growing population and economy places increased demand on our transport infrastructure; transport accounted for 20.2% of our greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. Emissions in the sector have risen rapidly in recent decades and remain stubbornly coupled to economic growth.

Transport however represents a central part of our daily lives. It provides access to education, employment, healthcare, social and leisure activities, and the movement of goods and services. The transport sector in Ireland is thus central to enabling a transition to a low-carbon economy and society.

So how can we improve the emissions from our transport sector?

  • Avoid journeys in the first place through better land use planning and support schemes (e.g. to work from home).
  • Improve public transport to encourage a shift from the private car.
  • Invest in cleaner alternative fuels.
  • Use lower emission transport modes including walking and cycling.

By embracing a more sustainable way of travelling to tackle climate change, we can also provide for a better quality of life, enhance work-life balances, achieve cleaner air and gain health benefits for all. By 2030, the Climate Action Plan aims to reduce overall emissions in the transport sector by 35-40%.

2. Ambitions and targets

Key measures set out in the Climate Action Plan to improve the transport sector, include to:

  • Accelerate the take-up of electric vehicles (EVs) with a target of 936,000 electric cars, vans and buses on our roads by 2030.
  • Build the EV charging network to stay ahead of demand.
  • Extend our network of cycle paths and ‘park and ride’ facilities to help ease congestion.
  • Make growth less transport intensive through better planning, remote and home-working.
  • Encourage modal shift to public transport.
  • Increase the renewable biofuel content of motor fuels.
  • Convert public transport fleets to zero carbon alternatives.

3. Actions completed to date

Public transport

Public transport passenger journeys are increasing. In 2019, passenger journeys increased by almost 24 million, or 9% compared to 2018.


Trials have been completed in Cork City and Dublin City using a variety of technologies including fully electric vehicles, hybrid, gas and retrofitted diesel buses (for high-level results under Action 85 of the Climate Action Plan, click here ). The trials will be used to find the best solution for the move towards low emissions.

The government has also pledged to bring 1,000 electric buses to the streets by 2030 and no more diesel-only buses will be purchased in Ireland from July 2019.


The ratio of CO2 emissions per train passenger is significantly lower than motorised transport. Trains are already less polluting than other modes of transport and are far more adaptable to newly available and prevalent renewable energy sources. Government is investing in electrifying our rail lines to further reduce emissions from this mode of transport under the Climate Action Plan (Action 92 and Action 93).


The Luas is not reliant on fossil fuels and other non-renewable natural resources. It emits less air pollution, less noise and less vibration compared to other road traffic. The company operates under the Environmental Impact Steering Group (EISG) which is responsible for the development and implementation of sustainability initiatives, targeting waste generation, energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Under the Climate Action Plan, the Government is increasing Luas carrying capacity, already delivering the first tram extensions from 42m to 54m in 2019 (for launch details, click here ).

Electric vehicles

While we are encouraging shifts to walking, cycling and public transport, electric vehicles are an accessible alternative for private car owners who might have no other way of travelling.

Over the course of the vehicle’s life cycle, owners of electric vehicles (EVs) will save money over traditional petrol/diesel cars. While the initial investment cost is currently higher, although these costs are coming down, there are a number of incentives in place to support your EV purchase including:

  • Up to €5,000 relief on qualifying private vehicles (SEAI ).
  • Up to €3,800 for commercial vehicles (SEAI ).
  • Up to €10,000 for electric small public service vehicles (taxis) (National Transport Authority ).
  • Up to €600 off the cost of installing an EV charger at home (SEAI ).
  • Discounted rates on motor tax and tolls (DTTAS )

Some insurance companies also offer discounted quotes based on the type of EV you have.

By 2030, the Government is committed to having at least 800,000 EVs on Ireland’s roads under the Climate Action Plan. A fast, convenient charging network is also being rolled out across the country, including a new scheme for the creation of up to 1,000 extra on-street public charge points, led by local authorities (for more details on Action 72, click here ) .

Sustainable travel

A range of sustainable mobility projects, including DART expansion , Metro Link and the BusConnects programme, are being rolled out by the government.

Park & Ride

Taking some of the driving out of your commute or journey can reduce emissions as well as traffic stress.

Many local councils have already established park and ride (P&R) facilities to access main working and education hubs. Some Luas stations were built alongside dedicated park and ride facilities. The Climate Action Plan has also committed to establishing a dedicated P&R Office in the National Transport Authority in 2019 (Action 89). The role of the office is to develop our overall P&R implementation plan, including the provision of multimodal facilities (e.g. EV charging/bicycle parking)


Ambitious targets for the expansion of cycling networks, greenways, and infrastructure that will support even more sustainable modes of travel have been set out in the Climate Action Plan. A dedicated Cycling Office is also being established in the National Transport Authority to coordinate future needs.

The Cycle to Work Scheme is a further tax incentive scheme which aims to encourage employees to cycle to and from work.

School and colleges

Initiatives are in place in schools and colleges to help students and staff make use of alternative transport methods:

Please click here to return to the main climate action page.