Climate Change Isn’t Waiting As Ireland Falls Ever Further Behind

9th December 2016
Press Release

An Taisce's Response to Minister Naughten's Annual Low Carbon Transition Statement

Clarity and determination were needed but are missing from Ireland’s first Annual Low Carbon Transition Statement [Note 1]. Delivered to the Oireachtas by Denis Naughten, the Minister responsible for Climate Action. The Statement falls short in giving the detail required by the Climate Act, and it also fails to stress the urgent need for immediate action to ensure “substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” required to limit climate change [Note 2]

An Taisce is concerned that the Minister’s Statement avoids mentioning the Environmental Protection Agency’s reports that our EU 2020 target will likely not be met [Note 3]. This Government and the last have failed to ensure that even basic policy measures actually deliver absolute emission reductions, particularly in agriculture and transport where emissions are large and rising quickly.

The Minister blames the aftermath of the financial crash for our failure to meet 2020 emissions targets, yet fails to acknowledge the downturn actually made these targets easier, not harder, to reach. The Government could have prioritised a low carbon economic recovery and pushed Europe to support it. Instead, the priority was and continues to be business-as-usual growth using even more fossil fuels, burning even more polluting biomass, farming even more cattle and emissions-intensive transport sprawl. Ireland’s current choices add up to a pathway to climate failure.

Furthermore, the Statement entirely omits to mention that the EU target of an overall 40% reduction in emissions by 2030 itself falls short of the climate action required by our signature to the Paris Agreement. All signatories agreed that Paris-pledges were insufficient to meet the target and therefore committed to a legally-binding ratcheting up of ambition by 2023 at the latest. We need to be ratcheting up effort to meet the Paris Agreement.

John Gibbons, speaking for An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee said:

"An Taisce agree with Minister Naughten that Government, all political parties, the public, and business need to act together on climate change. But we are not even close to doing so. The Earth’s climate system will not wait for us to act or give us easier economic options: it simply responds to the total carbon emissions from our activities."

Actual reductions in whole-economy emissions – are needed this year, and every year from now onward.

If one sector is not decreasing emissions sufficiently, then others will have to cut even more and even faster. It’s Denis Naughten’s and his Department’s job to ensure that the necessary total cuts happen in every year he is in office. That will require the Taoiseach and the Minister of Finance to be ready to enforce the necessary measures to achieve these cuts.

John Gibbons, speaking for An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee said:

"It is unacceptable that Ireland’s rapidly rising climate pollution emissions are enabling rather than avoiding dangerous global climate impacts.

Our very high and increasing emissions per person are escalating both the severity and the frequency of suffering for exposed and vulnerable people and ecosystems in Ireland and around the world, now and in the future.

Delay in cutting total emissions across the economy or in any sector is not an option. To act responsibly we need to turn our emissions path around now."

Minister Naughten, in his own words this week acknowledged the “apocalyptic” consequences of failing to rein in climate change. This is not just about ‘cost effectiveness’, it is about human welfare and the security and well-being of society itself.

The promised A National Climate Dialogue now needs to proceed extremely rapidly in concert with the upcoming National Mitigation plan to produce political and public agreement in achieving a significant cut in whole-economy emissions in 2017 and continuously thereafter. It is not ‘alarmist’ to be seriously alarmed by the science outlining the dire consequences of our current path. Hope now requires a very different approach if we are to conserve a stable climate and secure our future.

We must start immediately and across all of our government, economy and society to get on a pathway to zero emissions and to achieve real decarbonisation results quickly, to avoid unaffordable future costs due to climate impacts.

Our collective future is on the line. An Taisce urges Ireland’s first ever minister for Climate Action to rise to this historic challenge, and promises to support all actions in line with what science tells us is required.

ENDS

John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee. Tel: +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
www.antaisce.org

Notes

[Note 1] The full text version of the Ireland’s first Annual Low Carbon Transition Statement is here: http://opac.oireachtas.ie/AWData/Library3/CCAEdoclaid071216_114543.pdf
[Note 2] “Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fifth Assessment, Working Group 1, Summary for Policymakers. http://ipcc.ch
[Note 3] Little evidence of ‘decoupling’ as greenhouse gas emissions on the rise. “The EPA’s most recent greenhouse gas emission projections published in March this year, projected that Ireland would not meet its 2020 target, with emission reductions likely to be in the range of 6-11% below 2005 levels. The greenhouse gas emission increases for 2015 in this report, suggest that achieving reductions, even at the lower end of that range, will be difficult.” – Laura Burke, Director, EPA. Nov 10 2016. http://www.epa.ie/newsandevents/news/pressreleases2016/name,61471,en.html

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.