National Mitigation Plan - No Ambition, No Targets, No Success

19th July 2017
Press Release

Ireland’s long-overdue National Mitigation Plan (NMP), issued today, is long on aspirations for the distant future but crucially short on political leadership, courage or vision from the current government. Instead of presenting the plain facts about the deepening climate crisis to the Irish public and offering a bold plan to safeguard our collective future, the NMP instead presents a smorgasbord of vague, often contradictory, ideas.

While some measures, such as a commitment to a carbon tax to drive behavioural change, are welcome, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the main objective of the NMP is mollifying powerful special interest groups. Perhaps the most critical function required of the NMP was to set out our national emissions pathway from today to 2050, showing, in detail, the rate of emissions reductions as well as a sector-by-sector, year-by-year analysis of how we actually get there. However, crucially there is no emissions pathway whatever contained in this NMP.

At the recent National Dialogue, the Government accepted the need to coordinate three important plans, namely the National Mitigation Plan, the Capital Investment Plan and the National Planning Framework. This does not give us hope that forthcoming capital investment plan will only contain mitigation measures and not include motorways or airport runways and that the National Planning Framework will produce a Spatial Plan that does not lead to more sprawl and car-dependent commuting

Decades after its own expert advice to move away from both peat and coal burning, the best the government offers today is to defer a ‘decision’ about the future of the Moneypoint coal-burning plant until 2020 and to kick the issue of peat-burning stations down the road to 2019 at the earliest.

Almost unbelievably, there is still no commitment to offer a feed-in tariff for micro-generators of electricity, be they domestic, small business or farmers, to be able to sell their surplus clean energy back to the grid at a fair price. This is simply inexcusable. The scope for a minor ‘solar rooftop revolution’ in Ireland is being throttled by government inaction.

Just last week, Climate Action Minister Denis Naughten signed off on Druid/Drombeg exploration field on the Porcupine bank off Ireland’s west coast which is targeting “some 5 billion barrels of oil offshore Ireland”. Expert scientific opinion states that up to 80% of the world’s current proven reserves of fossil fuels can never be burned if we are to avoid a +2ºC global catastrophe.

In this context, the Druid/Drombeg field (which will offer precious little benefit to the Irish taxpayer) is a non-runner. And yet, despite the evidence, our government persists in digging us deeper into a climate hole with disjointed and incoherent policy-making.

Disappointingly, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his Cabinet continue to operate under the misapprehension that climate change is a medium to long-term threat, and that Ireland has plenty of time to consider ‘cost effective’ responses. What is notably absent from the NMP is any attempt at explaining the colossal costs climate change, if left unchecked, will inflict on the Irish economy, especially agriculture, as well as on wider social stability.

Once again, the most egregious ‘free pass’ on emissions has been handed to our agriculture sector, which accounts today for some one third of our entire (ETS and non-ETS combined) national emissions. Rather than showing a pathway for agriculture to reduce its huge emissions burden and move towards a genuinely environmentally sustainable model of food production that rewards farmers for real ecological stewardship, instead we get meaningless word-play.

“The long-term ambition for the (agriculture) sector is to move towards an approach to carbon neutrality which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production” says the NMP. This jargon can be translated into three simple words: Business As Usual. This is a shameful capitulation on the government’s part to special interest lobbying and exposes the ordinary taxpayer to EU fines running into hundreds of millions of euros (the size of ‘The Fiscal Space’) by 2020 and beyond. An Taisce reiterates its view that the ongoing expansion of the national beef and dairy herds needs to be reversed.

Meanwhile, while politicians continue to dither, thermometers do not lie. June 2017 was globally the third hottest ever recorded, and 2017 is on target to be the second hottest year on record. The hottest year ever was: 2016.

To summarise An Taisce’s response to the NMP: no real ambition; no real targets; no vision and absolutely no hope of success.

ENDS

This is a preliminary response, An Taisce will be issuing a more detailed critique in the next few days

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

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.