Climate Change Bill is ‘designed to fail’ - Urgent improvements required– An Taisce.

23rd January 2015
Press Release

An Taisce, The National Trust for Ireland, fully supports efforts to enshrine a framework for an effective Irish response to the vast threats posed by climate change in strong, unambiguous legislation. Unfortunately, the current Bill fails utterly to deliver on this ambition. Instead, in our view, the Bill endorses wishful thinking and climate inaction.

John Gibbons of An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee stated: “As it stands the Climate Bill is wholly inadequate to the task of setting sufficient targets or enforcing the actual achievement of deep decarbonisation of Ireland’s economy. Science states that ‘substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions’ are required to limit climate change (Note 1). This Bill does nothing to ensure that Ireland will achieve the required substantial and sustained, year on year, emission reductions. An Taisce therefore strongly urges major amendments to this Bill by Government, consistent with science and climate justice.”

Shifting Ireland towards ultra-low emissions requires a strong Climate Bill that ensures an ambitious, well defined emissions reduction pathway for Ireland within a science and equity-based carbon budget.

A national carbon budget requires real political leadership, because excess emissions by one sector will have to be balanced by less for other sectors. Already, our EU emissions obligations for 2020 will be extremely difficult to achieve, due in large part to the expansion of emissions from our agriculture sector.

Tackling climate change requires real and sustained political leadership. In his State of the Union address this week, US President Barack Obama stated: “No challenge poses greater threat to future generations than ‪climate change…it poses immediate risks to our national security, we should act like it”.

Where is the equivalent political leadership or sense of grave urgency in Ireland’s lukewarm Climate Bill? An Taisce would like to remind Taoiseach Enda Kenny that in September 2014, he addressed the UN Climate Summit in New York with the demand that world leader show “conviction, clarity, courage and consistency” in responding to climate change (Note 2). An Taisce strongly agrees with Mr Kenny’s sentiments, and urges him to back up his rhetoric by investing his political leadership in what history will surely judge as Ireland’s greatest challenge.

The recently published Climate Action & Low Carbon Development Bill is designed to give the impression of action while in fact being riddled with opt-outs and caveats. It is deliberately vague and appears to be designed to fail. Postponement of the Climate Mitigation Plan start date until 2017 heightens the sense that this Government is simply playing for time rather than acting to limit Ireland’s responsibility for its share of the atmospheric accumulation of greenhouse gases.

Since taking office, this Government has regrettably shown scant interest in any of the critical steps towards steering Ireland on a zero-emissions pathway – from lack of action on energy saving and retrofitting to its car-based transport policy (annual transport emissions are forecast to rise 66% by 2030, according to EPA estimates).

It is also promoting the emissions-intensive Food Harvest 2020, which essentially means that instead of sharp reductions, agricultural emissions will continue to grow. As a result of poor policy and leadership we are already on course to exceed our EU 2020 emissions targets, with costs in deserved fines that will be borne by all taxpayers rather than the polluters themselves.

This Bill only pretends bare compliance with our EU targets and lacks any enforceable sanctions to ensure they are achieved. Failure to act now will mean that in the near future, these EU targets will need to become more, not less, onerous. Time is not on our side.

As it stands the Bill does nothing to address the existential threat climate change now poses to every society and economy in the world, and yes, that includes Ireland.

An Taisce urges the Houses of the Oireachtas to recognise climate reality by amending the Bill to set an honest course for ourselves and future generations.

ENDS

For further information, please call:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee Tel: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 2411995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.ie

NOTES:

  1. Climate Change: The Physical Science, 2013, IPCC AR5 WG1 SPM p19. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg1/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf
  2. Taoiseach’s statement to UN Climate Change Summit, New York, Sept 2014
  3. An Taisce fully support the recommendation of the Oireachtas all-party Committee, which reported on the Outline Heads of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill in November 2013. As stated in An Taisce’s Submission to the Oireachtas Committee, we see the following three points as an absolute minimum for the Climate Bill if it is to have any credibility or realistic chance of being successful:
  • Quantifiable targets are required for accountability – a legally binding emissions reduction target of 80-95% for 2050 (see Government’s National Policy Position), with a clearly defined year on year percentage reduction pathway towards achieving the final target.
  • Five-year roadmaps with sectoral carbon budgets, i.e. each Government department is allocated binding emissions reductions targets and must provide audited reports on progress towards these targets.
  • Independent Expert Advisory Body, not beholden to commercial stakeholder groups or subject to political interference in publishing its findings.