Climate Change the Cinderella issue of the 2016 Election campaign.
Climate change is, once again, the Cinderella issue of the 2016 Election campaign. Given the latest Irish flooding disaster, and with the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change signed barely two months ago, it has required a quite extraordinary effort at reality denial for this crunch issue to have been completely overlooked by all the main parties as well as the mainstream media
The two Leaders’ Debates, hosted by TV3 and RTE, both completely ignored even a passing mention of climate or environmental issues [Note 1]. RTE’s decision to refuse the Green Party access to its Leaders’ Debate meant there was an onus on the national broadcaster to ensure that environmental concerns were included in the debate. This they signally failed to do. The fact that RTE flagged its first Leaders’ Debate as being about the “issues that really matter” speaks volumes for the station’s deepening crisis in both the quality and paucity of its climate coverage.
An Taisce understands that environment/climate change will again be ignored when RTE hosts the third and final Leaders’ Debate this week. Will a last minute plea change that?
And while the outgoing government makes much play of having introduced a Climate Act, its real priorities were made clear with the announcement this week that the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has just awarded 14 new licences for offshore oil and gas drilling [Note 2].
Given the imperative for all economies to rapidly decarbonise their energy systems in order to avoid the IPCC’s projected ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible’ impacts of climate change, how does the Irish government justify more drilling for oil and gas at the very time we need to fully commit to a low-to-zero carbon energy future? [Note 3]
Labour’s Election manifesto describes climate change as “the biggest single challenge facing humanity” [Note 4]. Its manifesto adds that Labour was part of “the first Irish Government to commit to a zero-carbon energy future for our country”. How exactly is the largest ever licensing round for Irish offshore fossil fuels compatible with “a zero-carbon energy future”?
An Taisce welcomes the commitment by Fianna Fail to the establishment of a new Department of Climate Change. According to its manifesto, “this new department will head up our climate change policy [Note 5]. It will bring together the current departments of Environment, Flood Defence, Energy, Transport, Natural Resources, & Heritage”. An Taisce recently issued a statement calling on all parties to commit to the establishment of a full government department of Climate Change [Note 6].
However, Fianna Fail’s manifesto also commits to “fully realising Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025” (as does Fine Gael). Both these plans trample over Ireland’s EU-mandated emissions reductions commitments and make a mockery of any commitment towards decarbonising and climate-proofing Ireland. They also ignore the huge opportunity to build a new, resilient, Irish agri-food system that prioritises climate-smart diets, global nutritional security, and the genuine long term well being of Irish farming communities..
Outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the UN in September 2014: “The hand of the future beckons, the clock ticks and we have no time to waste…Global warming is a stark reality that can only be dealt with by a collective global response. We are all interdependent and interconnected … we share a common humanity… and each of us must play our part.” [Note 7]
We have no time to waste if political rhetoric is to be translated into real action commensurate with the existential crisis posed by climate change. Supporting parties who are sleepwalking into the catastrophic reality of climate change is probably the riskiest step any voter can take next Friday.
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee Tel: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
Summary of all parties’ positions on climate/environment by Dr Cara Augustenborg of UCD http://www.caraaugustenborg.com/news/election-2016-climate-manifesto-analysis
- Colum Kenny Irish Times Wednesday 17th February 2016 http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/colum-kenny-rt%C3%A9-leaders-debate-missed-the-point-and-the-greens-1.2537097
- RTE News Friday 12th February http://www.rte.ie/news/business/2016/0212/767424-oil-licences/
- Concluding instalment of the Fifth Assessment Report: Climate change threatens irreversible and dangerous impacts, but options exist to limit its effects https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/ar5/prpc_syr/11022014_syr_copenhagen.pdf
- Labour's election manifesto https://www.labour.ie/download/pdf/labour_manifesto_2016.pdf
- Fianna Fail's election manifesto https://www.fiannafail.ie/download/An-Ireland-for-all-Fianna-FaCC81il-Manifesto.pdf
- An Taisce calls for Climate Action from political parties in the upcoming general election. http://www.antaisce.org/articles/an-taisce-calls-for-climate-action-from-political-parties-in-the-upcoming-general-election
- Address by the Taoiseach to UN Secretary General's Climate Change Summit, New York, 23 September 2014 https://www.rte.ie/documents/news/kennyclimatespeech.pdf