Ireland’s Climate (In-)Action Plan: How can we plan a journey if nobody knows the destination?

11th March 2017
Press Release

Minister Denis Naughten is about to publish a draft plan to limit Ireland’s emissions of dangerous, climate disrupting, greenhouse gases over the next five years. However, the Government has inexplicably failed to first update its long term emissions reduction goal, the so-called National Climate Change Mitigation Objective [Note 1]. This is a serious problem because the current mitigation objective is inadequate, unjust and obsolete. It has not been revised to reflect the greatly raised ambition needed to align Ireland’s climate action with the Paris Climate Agreement: an agreement which we formally ratified last November. In the absence of such an update, the new National Mitigation Plan will lock Ireland into totally inadequate climate actions for the next critical five years.

In An Taisce’s view, this policy incoherence will set a course for Ireland to fall far short of effective climate action. We have already procrastinated dangerously long: this critical opportunity to act decisively for all our futures must not be squandered.

There is widespread scientific agreement that the collective international pledges submitted ahead of the Paris Agreement, even if fully delivered, would fall far short of achieving the stated temperature goals of ‘ ... holding the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit this to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’ [Note 2]. For Ireland, our first, most critical, step must therefore be an urgent, radical, re-evaluation of the National Mitigation Objective.

Professor Barry McMullin of An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee stated:

“An Taisce is calling for the urgent reformulation of the National Mitigation Objective to make it fully aligned with science, equity and our international responsibilities. The Paris temperature goals are neither arbitrary nor optional: they were identified, on the basis of rigorous scientific evidence, as the absolute maximum planet-wide temperature disruption that can be allowed without creating reckless and intolerable risk to global humanity and ecosystems. Ireland has rightly committed to act to achieve these goals, playing its full part on a fair and equitable international basis. It is essential that all physically possible measures are now brought into play to ensure consistency with these goals. Inadequate near term mitigation action is likely to be irreversible in terms of resulting long term climate impacts, locally and globally.”

The citizens of Ireland should be fully involved in this process in order to achieve the essential social licence needed to deliver the rapid, transformative, changes that are now required. There are critical opportunities for this in the forthcoming consultation on the draft National Mitigation Plan, in the proposed National Dialogue on Climate and through the Citizens’ Assembly. All of these must be comprehensive, inclusive and based on transparent, accurate and extensive information.

Mr. Phil Kearney, Chair of the An Taisce Climate Change Committee added:

“The Government Briefing Document on the National Mitigation Plan [Note 3] quite bizarrely ignores the fact that the National Mitigation Objective is no longer consistent with climate science or effective international action. We urge Minister Naughten to now demonstrate the determined climate leadership that has been so lacking under previous governments. He can engage honestly with the Irish people to chart the difficult but essential course ahead; but the unavoidable prerequisite must be to update the National Mitigation Objective, based on science, justice and the goal of preserving a livable planet for ourselves, our children, and the global human family.”

An Taisce’s detailed critique of the current, flawed National Mitigation Objective is now available on the An Taisce website [Note 4].

ENDS

For further information, contact:
Prof. Barry McMullin, An Taisce Climate Change Committee: +353 87 913 0513
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

  1. The National Climate Change Mitigation Objective is currently defined in the Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development National Policy Position (adopted by the then Fine Gael - Labour Government in April 2014) as the achievement of “... an aggregate reduction in carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions of at least 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors; and in parallel, an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.” Available at: http://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/migrated-files/en/Publications/Environment/Atmosphere/FileDownLoad%2C37827%2Cen.pdf
  2. See: B. Knopf, S. Fuss, G. Hansen, F. Creutzig, J. Minx, O. Edenhofer (January 2017) From Target to Action: Rolling up our Sleeves after Paris. Wiley Journal of Global Challenges. (Note that Prof. Edenhofer is a distinguished international expert member of the Irish Climate Change Advisory Council.) Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/gch2.201600007/full
  3. Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (February 2017) National Mitigation Plan Briefing Document. Available at: http://www.dccae.ie/energy/SiteCollectionDocuments/Energy-Initiatives/National%20Mitigation%20Plan%20Briefing%20Document.pdf
  4. An Taisce (January 2017) The Central Question of Irish Climate Policy: What is (and what should be) the “National Mitigation Objective”? A submission to the Irish Climate Change Advisory Council. Available at: http://www.antaisce.org/publications/the-central-question-of-irish-climate-policy-what-is-and-what-should-be-the-%E2%80%9Cnational-0

Explanation of Terms

National Policy Position - NPP

The “National Policy Position” (NPP) (on “Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development”), was published by then Fine Gael - Labour Government in April 2014. It is available at: http://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/migrated-files/en/Publications/Environment/Atmosphere/FileDownLoad%2C37827%2Cen.pdf This predated the Act.

The NPP presents, up front, a rather woolly, high level, “fundamental national objective, to achieve transition to a competitive, low carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050”.

This high level language was subsequently incorporated into the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act (2015), where it was officially re-labled as the “National Transition Objective” Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act (2015) http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2015/act/46/enacted/en/html

National Transition Objective - NTO

The detailed text of the NPP and of the Act both make clear that the NTO encompasses both “mitigation” (limiting the extent of climate change, primarily by reducing or eliminating GHG [Greenhouse Gas] emissions) and “adaptation” (preparing prudently, in good time, for the climate impacts that will, despite the world community’s “best” mitigation efforts, still unfold).

As an aside, neither the NPP nor the Act mention the likely “gap” between mitigation and adaptation: which is conventionally assumed will be accounted for by “suffering” - though it’s generally left carefully ambiguous who this will largely fall upon.

The NPP (but not the Act) further elaborated a specific, somewhat quantitative, objective for the specific mitigation component of the NTO expressed as follows: “The low-carbon roadmapping process will be guided by a long-term vision of low-carbon transition based on: an aggregate reduction in carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions of at least 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors; and in parallel, an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.

National Mitigation Plan (NMP)

Note that, within the NPP the term “low-carbon roadmap” corresponds precisely to what the Act subsequently called a “National Mitigation Plan” (NMP). But again, to re-iterate, the Act did not incorporate the specific quantitative language on mitigation that is present in the NPP - despite pleas from NGOs, including An Taisce, to do so.

Climate Change Advisory Committee http://www.climatecouncil.ie/

National Mitigation Objective (NMO)

On the other hand, the Climate Change Advisory Committee (CCAC), in its first report, does quote the exact quantitative mitigation/emissions reduction language from the NPP, and now calls it explicitly the “national mitigation objective” (albeit, not capitalising it).

An Taisce’s submission to the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC), in response to their 1st report, adopts this terminology, but we did capitalise it as the “National Mitigation Objective”.

In our press release, which is based on that submission to the CCAC, we still use essentially that terminology, but spelled out slightly more to “National Climate Change Mitigation Objective”

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.