An Taisce correspondence shows DCCAE squandered opportunity for consultation on long-term climate strategy

1st December 2019
Press Release

On February 8th last, An Taisce wrote [1] to the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment (DCCAE) pointing out that all EU member states had to prepare and submit to the European Commission their long term low-emissions strategies by January 1st, 2020. The letter stated that ‘... we assume that the Department is making due provision for effective public participation in the development of this critical long-term strategy’, and offered any assistance or support towards this end.

We received no response to this, nor to a follow-up reminder letter.

Then, more than nine months later, the DCCAE, at the proverbial 11th hour, announced in late November a rushed consultation period on its long term climate strategy, leaving just 15 working days, ahead of the closing date of December 16th next, for responses to be researched, prepared and submitted [2].

While the period for public consultation is grossly inadequate, the government in turn is required to submit its strategy document, presumably incorporating feedback from hundreds or even thousands of respondents across 26 questions to the EU by January 1st next. With a public deadline of December 16th, and allowing for the Christmas holidays, this gives the department barely a week to complete this task – a manifestly impossible situation.

Given the department has had at least the last 18 months in which to invite public engagement on its ‘Long-Term Strategy on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions’ document, this has to be seen as either gross incompetence or a cynical attempt to stymie meaningful scrutiny and public engagement, according to An Taisce.

The Consultation document poses a total of 26 questions in areas from electricity production and enterprise to built environment, transport, agriculture and forestry as well as waste and the circular economy and steps towards a just transition.

“This crucial process is to set the framework for Ireland’s climate policy for the next three decades. It is shambolic in the extreme to leave it to the last minute, and indicates, despite the rhetoric, just how low a priority this government continues to place on climate action and meaningful public engagement”, according to an An Taisce spokesperson.

In response to criticisms from various quarters, the Department has indicated it is prepared to extend the consultation period ‘if necessary’. An Taisce is now asking Minister Bruton as a matter of urgency to seek an extension from the EU on its January 1st deadline, based on explicit acknowledgement of the totally inadequate lead-time the department has given to the public, including NGOs, academics and other interested parties, to review and respond in depth to the request for consultation.

“This is a mess of the department’s own making”, the spokesperson added. “As we advised them back in early February, there needed to be ample time and thought given to this critically important process. Ireland is already among the worst-performing states in the EU in terms of emissions reduction, and this process reinforces the impression of blithe indifference. Minister Bruton needs to ask his officials just how they allowed this fiasco to unfold”.

Contact: John Gibbons, PRO (087-2332 689)

Notes:

[1] An Taisce letter, ‘Re: National Long-term Low Emissions Strategy 2020-2070’, 8th Feb 2019: https://www.antaisce.org/AT-Letter-Re-LTS-2019

[2] DCCAE LTS Public Consultation Call, 27 Nov 2019: https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/climate-action/consultations/Pages/Public-Consultation-on-Ireland%E2%80%99s-Long-term-Strategy-on-Greenhouse-Gas-Emissions-Reduction.aspx