Left hand producing a Climate Change Bill - Right hand pleading to Europe for lower targets.
In September 2014, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, addressing a UN conference in New York, spoke out powerfully about the looming global climate crisis and the duty of those who exercise political power to act now, and to act decisively.
“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”, said Mr Kenny.
The passing this week of Ireland’s first ever Climate Bill is, or should be, a cause for celebration for those who care about future generations, as well as the millions already suffering as a result of the impacts of climate change. The establishment of an independent Climate Advisory Council – albeit overloaded with economists, and worryingly light on actual scientific expertise – is a welcome development.
Also, the government’s agreement to include the concept of Climate Justice (acknowledging that we in the ‘developed’ world have gained by the use of fossil fuels, at the expense of those in poorer countries, and so we must act first and take the greatest cuts) is also welcomed, as is the fact that a National Mitigation Plan will now be put on a statutory basis. And, as the passage in the UK in 2008 of its Climate Act has shown, climate legislation has led to the establishment of a framework to develop an economically credible emissions reduction path, while strengthening the UK’s leadership internationally. The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) plays an active role in shaping policy on emissions reduction, while the Climate Act has also had the welcome effect of reducing the degree to which issue of climate change is kicked around as a political football.
However, what is alarming is that, the morning after the Climate Bill is passed by the Dáil, this headline appears in the national press: ‘State to lobby EU for lower climate change targets’. Despite An Taoiseach’s rhetoric about the “stark reality” of climate change, it is clear that his officials are being dispatched to Brussels to try to secure a special exemption for Ireland from meeting the emissions reductions targets being mandated by the EU.
Leading this ‘special pleading’ once again is Ireland’s agriculture sector. If the EU is to exempt Ireland from achieving scientifically mandated critical emissions reductions targets, then the German auto industry, Poland’s coal industry and dozens of other powerful ‘national interest’ groups will be able to point to Ireland and defend their also being exempted from emissions reduction targets.
This in turn will lead to the certain collapse of the EU’s efforts to aggressively rein in emission. With the EU opting out, China, the US and other major emerging economies can then also cave in to their own domestic special interest groups. When Taoiseach Kenny said: “each of us must play our part”, were these just empty words?
An Taisce would remind Mr Kenny that EU emissions reductions targets are designed to save lives, protect our economies and secure food production – these are not, as he appears to believe, mere Brussels red tape that can be wished away by lobbying and handshakes. “The hand of the future beckons, the clock ticks and we have no time to waste…”
For further information, please call:
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