An Taisce dismayed by government's "fait accompli" regarding the national climate change mitigation plan

1st April 2015
Press Release

Government’s approach further undermines the proposed Expert Advisory Council, says An Taisce

An Taisce - the National Trust for Ireland – has today expressed its dismay regarding the government's request for tenders, published on Monday, for an environmental analysis of the national climate change mitigation plan.

The IFA has welcomed the absence of what it calls "divisive and unachievable sectoral targets" in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill, and the Taoiseach and Minister Coveney have argued that Ireland's national emissions reduction target for 2030, which is to be agreed at EU level, "must take account of Ireland's specific circumstances including the size and importance of our agri-food sector."

It is therefore dismaying, if unsurprising, to see the government produce a tender document for assessing the national mitigation plan that seems clearly aimed at keeping a firm hand on the rudder insofar as potential impacts on agricultural policy are concerned.

At present, the first national mitigation plan has to be submitted to the government, for approval, within 24 months of enactment of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act. In anticipation of this planned primary legislation, work has already commenced within government on a national mitigation plan. In this regard, the government has put out a request for tenders for an environmental analysis of the mitigation plan which emerges.

Amongst the required academic qualifications for tenderers to satisfy is a degree "in agricultural science or agricultural economics to at least Masters Level." Whilst there are also requirements for persons qualified in environmental science and with experience of ecology, there is no requirement for experts in energy, buildings or sustainable transport.

The tender document says that four key sectors are to be examined: electricity generation, the built environment, transport and agriculture. Given this list, it is totally unclear why agricultural expertise has been singled out as a required criterion whilst other sectoral expertise has not.

Dr. Andrew Jackson, An Taisce's Natural Environment Officer, comments,

“The document states that tenderers must have experience in delivering a similar assessment service in the last five years in the four key sectors mentioned. There is only one consortium we can think of which has carried out something along the lines of a Strategic Environmental Assessment and an Appropriate Assessment of agriculture in Ireland in the past five years – this was led by an agricultural consultancy and produced the strongly-criticised environmental analysis of Food Harvest 2020.

The same agricultural consultancy was recently appointed to conduct a similar analysis of the 2025 Agri-Food Strategy. The question arises: has this latest request for tenders fired the starting gun for a victory parade or a competition?"

Dr. Jackson continued:

"The tender document further undermines the independence of the proposed Expert Advisory Council on climate change. It is this Council which should be independently setting the terms of reference for a sectorally balanced assessment of the national mitigation plan. Instead, the issued tender document practically guarantees that the assessment will be unbalanced and inadequate.

We heard today from Minister Coveney that "nobody in the Irish administration ever suggested that agriculture was going to reduce emissions long term." It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the assessment of the national mitigation plan is being set up to reinforce this approach. This is hugely disappointing, as is the inward-looking approach – we can see no evidence here of an attempt to ensure that the assessment will be international or outward-looking. Of course, there is no requirement for a contract to be awarded even though this request for tenders is out. The government should go back to the drawing board on this one – it is simply not good enough.”

ENDS

For further information, please call:

Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 2411995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

  1. The tender document is here - "Request for Tenders for the Provision of Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment Services for the development of the National Mitigation Plan, a national plan setting out Ireland's first statutory low carbon development strategy for the period to 2050" - e.g. see clause 3.2.B: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Byc1SOzeg2lPWjhzTGFyVVBVcDA/view?usp=sharing
  2. The IFA quote is here: http://www.farmersjournal.ie/no-sectoral-targets-in-climate-change-bill-173013/
  3. The Taoiseach/Minister Coveney quote is here: http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/analysis/climate-policy-change-crucial-for-the-future-294127.html
  4. Today's quote from Minister Coveney is here: http://www.independent.ie/business/farming/farming-will-not-be-held-back-by-green-targets-says-coveney-31105492.html
  5. The environmental analysis of Food Harvest 2020 is here http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/ruralenvironment/climatechange/FoodHarvest2020EnvironmentalAnalysisFINAL050214.pdf