An Taisce welcomes CCAC critique of Government’s Climate In-action Plan

26th July 2017
Press Release

Today’s publication by the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) of its Periodic Review Report 2017, has vindicated the concerns expressed last week by An Taisce, among others. The CCAC report states bluntly that: “it does not provide a framework for policy prioritisation. In the absence of decisions on additional policy actions, Ireland will not achieve the national transition objective by 2050.

An Taisce and other Environmental NGOs last week heavily criticised the Government’s long-awaited National Mitigation Plan (NMP) on climate change, arguing that it fails across a number of vital criteria to deliver on either the vision or the detail of a plan that would, in the Taoiseach’s own words, deliver the “fundamental societal transformation” that is now required.

In confirming how completely inadequate Ireland’s official response is to the unfolding climate crisis - i.e. Ireland will likely fail to meet both its 2020 and 2030 emissions targets - CCAC chair, Prof John FitzGerald added: “It is urgent that effective additional policies are implemented to place our economy on an environmentally sustainable pathway to a low- carbon Ireland in 2050.

An Taisce endorses the CCAC’s assessment of the shortcomings of the Government’s climate policy, and we strongly agree with the Council’s suggestion regarding the folly of “buying our way” out of the 2020 emissions reductions shortfall. Firstly, there are still 53 months to December 2020. Radical no-excuses action, starting now, can still be effective. Secondly, we have a new Taoiseach, from a new generation; now, more than ever, bold new leadership is called for.

The National Mitigation Plan, The National Planning Framework and the Capital Investment Plan need to be aligned and An Taisce will campaign to ensure that no infrastructural investment is made that is contrary to climate mitigation - the CCAC echoes this on Page 11 “Delays in providing an adequate policy signal may result in further investment in carbon-intensive infrastructure.

An Taisce very much agrees with the CCAC when it says: “Social acceptance of the need to transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society and economy can accelerate actions”. The CCAC also states: “by the middle of this century, Ireland should have no further negative influence on the Earth’s climate system”. This, in essence, means Irish net emissions need to be at zero or even minus emissions (net removals of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere) by mid-century.

In this context, it is simply impossible to allow a huge sector such as agriculture to opt out of commensurate (deep) emissions cuts, citing, as excuse and camouflage, some vague aspiration to ‘carbon neutrality’. Societal change in a climate constrained world likely also means dietary change, and a sharp shift away from resource and emissions intensive foods, specifically including ruminant animal products (beef, sheep, dairy). Some planned and managed reduction in the national herd is unavoidable in this context.

We welcome the CCAC statement on the need to re-think our national agricultural priorities. “There are emerging opportunities for diversification of the rural economy to address a broader spectrum of economic and societal needs. Currently, many Irish farmers are locked into low income, low-profit farming systems. Opportunities to provide alternative and more remunerative income opportunities for these groups may emerge, for example through alternative uses for grass, and conversion of land to renewable energy and biomass production.”

This statement underlines the folly of the current slavish adherence to the industry-driven Food Wise 2025 strategy document, and how poorly this agri-industrial manifesto represents the needs of ordinary farmers, many of whom are locked into unprofitable beef enterprises. On “biomass production”, An Taisce have serious concerns about the sustainability of the projected harvesting, the impact of monoculture afforestation on biodiversity, and the continuing failure of EU regulations to acknowledge serious errors in bioenergy CO₂ accounting (Note 1). If forest is clear-felled as projected by the Department of Agriculture then, as Teagasc have shown (Note 2), after 2035 and beyond 2050 it seems likely there will be little or no forestry carbon offset available to be claimed for ‘carbon neutrality’ in Irish agriculture.

An Taisce notes that the CCAC shows an indicative decarbonisation pathway (based on the National Mitigation Objective, already adopted back in 2014) that would see successive reductions in Ireland’s annual carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions of around 910,000 tonnes of CO₂ every year from 2015 to 2050. This means a near term target of limiting total annual CO₂ emissions to 33.4 MtCO₂ by 2020; that is a total reduction of 14% in annual CO₂ emissions just between 2015 and 2020. By 2020, the summed 18 million tonne CO₂ cumulative shortfall between the CCAC-indicated path and the EPA projected reality of policy is the same as a year’s combined emissions from transport and residential sectors.

The National Mitigation Plan, as it currently stands, will do little or nothing to address the scale of effort required in the short, medium, or long term. In fact EPA projections, based on all existing and planned government measures, show Ireland’s annual emissions continuing to increase, not decrease, all the way to 2035, at least. This is not a plan for a just climate transition; it is a plan to delay, deflect, and procrastinate.

Instead, we need urgent action now, not later. The Advisory Council save their most important advice for the very last paragraph of the their report, stressing the need for social acceptance of the difficult choices that already need to be made. They say: “a fair and equitable approach for transition is key to enhancing public acceptance”. An Taisce agrees. Climate justice within Ireland and recognising the global effect of our climate pollution beyond Ireland should be at the moral core of Ireland’s climate action.

The Brundtland Commission famously defined sustainable development as that which “meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." This is how we must also view climate action. If, in meeting our own needs, we destroy the prospects of future generations, then this is the very definition of failure. Let’s choose instead to succeed.

ENDS

For further information, contact:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland i www.antaisce.org

Notes

Note 1: European Environment Agency Scientific Committee (2011) Opinion of the EEA Scientific Committee on Greenhouse Gas Accounting in Relation to Bioenergy. https://www.eea.europa.eu/about-us/governance/scientific-committee/sc-opinions/opinions-on-scientific-issues/sc-opinion-on-greenhouse-gas [pdf]

Note 2: Teagasc (2013) Carbon neutrality as a horizon point for Irish Agriculture. See pages 38 to 42 http://www.teagasc.ie/publications/2013/3002/CarbonNeutrality.pdf

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.