Catalogue of failure laid bare by Climate Change Advisory Council
The gulf between Ireland’s lofty climate rhetoric and our abysmal actual performance was laid bare today by the government-appointed Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) in its Annual Review 2018.
Council chair, Prof John FitzGerald described Ireland as being in “an even worse position” than reported in 2017, with “projections of emissions to 2035 showing that we are completely off course in addressing the challenge of climate change”.
An Taisce strongly supports Prof FitzGerald’s critique, which is in line with our own ongoing criticism of Ireland’s systemic failure of both political leadership and vision in the task of guiding this country towards a safer, low-carbon future.
An Taisce also supports the CCAC’s view that carbon taxes are far too low to be effective. The Council has recommended an initial €30 per tonne carbon price, rising quickly to €80 by 2030. If anything, we believe this is still inadequate to effect meaningful shift in both behaviour and investment.
A realistic carbon tax, reflecting the true costs to society of emissions, would probably need to start at €100 per tonne, and rise quickly over time. Loopholes and exemptions, such as for aviation and shipping, would have to be quickly eliminated for this to be effective. Mechanisms can be put in place to ensure that this is not a regressive tax and the burden is shared equitably.
We are very much encouraged by the CCAC’s concern over state plans to extend the life of ecologically damaging and uneconomic peat-burning plants by co-firing them with biomass, much of which is from entirely unsustainable sources, and all of which emits carbon when burned.
The CCAC statement: “Public funding could be better spent supporting real emissions reduction and the low carbon transition of fossil fuel dependent communities” closely echoes what An Taisce has been publicly arguing for the last several years.
As the huge northern hemisphere heatwave continues, climatologists have warned repeatedly that these extreme conditions could, as global emissions continue unabated, be ‘typical’ summer conditions within the next 20-25 years, with even more extreme conditions on the horizon.
Yet, as the world tries to grapple with how to develop a low-carbon pathway to the future, Ireland continues to throw fuel on the fire. As the CCAC observed: “Instead of achieving the required 1m tonne p.a. reduction in CO2 emissions consistent with the National Policy Position, Ireland is currently increasing emissions at a rate of 2m tonnes per year”.
This situation, brought about through a combination of political failure and successful lobbying by well-funded and politically connected vested interest groups, is profoundly immoral. By our actions and inactions today, we are leaving a ‘scorched Earth’ for the next generation to inherit. And all for unsustainable short-term gain.
Ireland can and must do better. The CCAC report is to be commended for eschewing the usual bureaucratic jargon and speaking plainly, in language everyone can understand. We call on politicians from all parties to come together in the national interest to do what’s required to stem dangerous climate change. Civic society will support you and help you to face down the foot-draggers and the special pleading of cynical lobbyists.
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
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
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.