It is the considered view of An Taisce that the Bill in its present form is not fit for purpose. With extensive and radical amendment it could possibly be made effective, but the scale of the defects and omissions is such as to call into question the Government’s motivation to legislate for climate action that will underpin effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, there is a glaring lack of support in the Bill to confirm the clear-cut obligations on Government to meet our international climate commitments and consequent accountability to citizens for failure to do so.

As shown by the success of Climate Case Ireland, the 2015 Climate Act at least allowed appeal to the courts for some minimal level of performance on the part of the State. However, the view of the current Bill from competent legal authorities is that it would systematically strip out any such basis for court intervention. Unfortunately, avoidance of justiciability appears to be a driving force in the Bill’s current design. The meagre, superficial, improvements in the bureaucracy of national climate governance offered in the Bill fall well short of compensating for loss of justiciability in support of effective climate action. 

An Taisce urges the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action to put forward recommendations that greatly strengthen the Bill’s justiciability to legal force to ensure accountability for meaningful climate action through the next decade and beyond. We hope that the key points and expanded analysis below can be of assistance in achieving that aim.

An Taisce response: key points

1. The Bill needs to pursue and achieve a “National Climate Objective”, or NCO, that makes an explicit commitment on behalf of the Irish people, that​ ​the State will act to make a full, equitable and just national contribution to meeting the global temperature goals set out in Article 2.1(a) of the Paris Agreement. 

    • The draft Bill, in Section 3, fails to require achievement and fundamentally fails to define the essential goal of equitable climate action in the Paris Agreement as ratified by Ireland.

2.  The Bill needs to make clear in Section 11(2A) that the ultimate, overriding criterion to be used by the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) in proposing a national carbon budget programme of rolling five-year budgets must be alignment and consistency with the reformulated NCO and its related equitable national carbon quota ‘fair-share’ of a Paris-aligned, ‘forever’ global carbon budget. The Bill needs to specify that the Government must state the scale and duration of any overshoot of the NCO national CO2 quota and the resultant quantity of negative emissions ultimately being relied on to meet the Paris-aligned NCO.

3.  Replace “sectoral decarbonisation target ranges” with “sectoral allocations of the overall carbon budget” for any five-year period, specifying that sectoral allocations must sum to no more than a period’s total budget​. 

    • Remove the inadequate language on “sectoral decarbonisation target ranges” described in Section 4(2)(b)(i); section 6B(13); and 6C(7).

4. Require that carbon budget deficits (emissions in excess of a five-year budget limit) must ​automatically​ carry forward (without Ministerial or Government discretion), and trigger an obligation to carry out an immediate corresponding review of the adequacy of the rolling Climate Action Plan.

    • Remove the Section 6D(5) (deficit) 1% limit on carry-forwards of carbon budget deficit.

5.  In line with the Aarhus Convention, public participation must be explicitly guaranteed, enabling the Oireachtas to mandate the establishment of an independent Public Participation oversight body. The Bill could include explicit provision for a permanent, large scale, programme of citizen participation in the formulation and execution of climate action.

6.  Government should remove specific references to agriculture. No part of society or sector should be favoured in law above others because all will be impacted by this Bill. The inclusion of a commitment to a Just Transition will afford all sectors of society equitable status.

7.  Methane should not be explicitly treated differently from other greenhouse gases. This would be premature (given that the recently developed methodology known as GWP* potentially enables aggregating carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane into a single, unified “GHG budget” framework). For now, the treatment of non-CO2​ gases in carbon budgets should be explicitly referred for advice from the CCAC, as part of the preparation of the initial carbon budget programme.

8.  Reference to carbon leakage should be removed from the Bill as limiting such leakage to non-EU countries would need to be resolved at EU level through Border Carbon Taxes. The current Bill definition also fails to consider the carbon leakage to Ireland occurring due to Ireland’s failure to meet its EU ESD climate targets.

9.  Interim targets are essential to ensure the intended roadmap (aligned with the Paris Agreement as set out in Point 1 above) is being followed. These currently exist for our EU 2020 and 2030 targets and cumulative period-based targets are needed in the Bill.

10.  The Bill needs to specify a requirement for the Government and Ministers to plan for continuous reductions in total Irish use of nitrogen (in fertiliser and feed) and to report annually on total, national nitrogen usage and show that its nitrogen-reduction plans are aligned with achieving Paris-aligned non-CO2 emission reductions.

11.  An Taisce opposes the need for ex-officio members on the CCAC and such bodies should instead make themselves available to advise the future deliberations of the Council.

See the full submission here.