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Life in the green lane: Ireland’s pathway towards sustainable motoring


To understand the level of change that is required to achieve truly sustainable motoring in Ireland, one needs only to look at the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. As travel restrictions kept the vast majority of us off the roads, one happy consequence was a sizeable reduction in emissions.

A report published by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) found that towards the end of 2020, petrol consumption was down by a whopping 27pc compared to 2019. While that is a bigger step in the right direction than we could have predicted pre-pandemic, it’s still barely scratching the surface.

In essence, it’s nowhere near enough progress towards where we should be, especially as a return to offices will naturally see an increase of drivers on the road. Whilst most of us have some level of understanding about what needs to be done, actually achieving it is another matter entirely.

Exploring our options and understanding what can be done is a key part of how we can tackle this enormous problem. Carbon offsetting is something we can actively take part in now with the hope of balancing the impact of carbon dioxide produced on our roads, and you can learn more about that here.

Electric vehicles on Irish roads

Even taking travel restrictions into account, transport (not including air travel) still accounted for about 18pc of total emissions in Ireland in 2020. Bearing that in mind, you start to understand that strides towards reducing emissions in this sector will have a considerable impact across the board.

One of the most obvious solutions is making the switch to electric vehicles (EVs). Aside from the benefits of cutting out traditional fuel costs and emissions, there has long been a sense that it’s only a matter of time before they become a much more common sight on Irish roads.

There is a lot to consider when eyeing up the switch, especially as the purchasing cost can be considerably higher. Removing emissions entirely from your journey is a massive plus, but it’s understandable that many are still slightly cautious about whether or not they tick all the right boxes.

Electric vehicles are by no means the pipe dream they once were. Public charging stations are becoming a more common sight than ever before, and you can only expect that upward trend to continue.

As recently as 10 years ago, it would have been fair to say that Ireland did not have the infrastructure to facilitate EV drivers. The fear of not being able to get from one point to the next on a single charge was an understandable one, especially for people on rural roads.

Things have changed greatly since then, and the number of service stations in Ireland that offer charging points is currently number one in Europe. While the number of charging points remains an obstacle for many drivers, it’s certainly taking us in the right direction.

This is a change that is being demanded from the top, and the Department of Transport last year committed to getting 936,000 fully electric vehicles on our roads by 2030. Considering the fact that this number currently stands at around 14,000, achieving this goal will take a monumental effort.

It’s inevitable that we explore alternative options to diesel and petrol, and the pros are quite quickly beginning to outweigh the cons. There are still issues that need to be resolved, including the fact that fossil fuels are used as a source of energy for charging stations, but progress is being made to make Irish motoring more sustainable.

The long road ahead

As many would agree, EVs are not going to be the best option for everyone. There are still ways by which you can seek to reduce the emissions of standard cars and have a positive impact on your carbon footprint.

From keeping your tyres properly inflated to cutting down on use of the air conditioning, they’re all small steps taken in the right direction. Even simply becoming more aware of how our day-to-day activities contribute to a titanic issue can help bring about greater change.

While there are plenty of measures that can be taken at an individual level by Irish motorists, there is arguably an even greater responsibility on companies as well. Making Irish roads more sustainable is going to take a push from both sides.

Studies have shown that customers rated carbon reduction activities very highly, and they want to engage with businesses that stick to these core values. Not only does this give companies the opportunity to prove themselves beyond the standards of their product, but it can also help encourage the widespread desire for change that is necessary to achieve sustainable motoring.

From investing in climate change solutions to finding research projects that seek to undo the effects of greenhouse gases, this public perception is having an impact. Companies both large and small are beginning to make progress towards sustainability, and the motoring industry is no different.

As Ireland’s leading insurance provider, AXA Ireland is partnering with The Nature Trust and Ecologi as part of their plan to focus on the environment. They plan to offset 100% of carbon emissions produced by all new and existing car customers for one year, at no extra cost.

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