An Taisce welcomes the publication of the Climate Action Bill as a significant step towards tackling Ireland’s Climate and Biodiversity Emergency. While acknowledging that the incorporation of legally binding targets for national emissions will offer an opportunity to place Ireland on a trajectory it has failed to achieve thus far, the key need now is for urgent action in the short term to accelerate the culture change necessary towards a post-carbon society.

An Taisce notes that the target of achieving the 51% reduction is less ambitious than that sought by the EU overall and for Ireland does not represent a ‘fair share’ of the world’s remaining carbon budget, nor a sufficient response to the obligations of the Paris Agreement. Neither does the Bill commit to an annual 7% reduction in emissions for the period to 2030, providing a risk that further deferring of the ‘heavy lifting’ to the second half of the current decade may be attempted. 

Notwithstanding these concerns, the Bill is vastly improved from the initial draft and An Taisce recognises the positive influence of the Joint Oireachtas Committee in influencing this. The role of the expanded Climate Advisory Council in setting the two 5-year carbon budgets later this year and  prompt responses of Ministers in agreeing their sectoral allocations will be crucial signals of intent, ones that An Taisce will be monitoring closely. 

The carbon budget becomes, like the financial budget, the catalyst for change in Irish society. Aspects of the Bill still echo the special pleading that has bedevilled progress in recent years and this is regrettable. But any sector seeking to gain concessions does so at the expense of the inequitable burdening of others in Irish society. 

Prof. John Sweeney, member of An Taisce’s Climate Committee, said:

“An Taisce welcomes the commitment of sectors such as agriculture that they will play their part fully in compliance with the scientifically established national, and later on, sectoral carbon budgets. Respecting the science does not mean that ‘get out’ clauses for methane or carbon credit accounting will be acceptable, especially to those other sectors who will have to compensate.”

The burden of climate change proofing from the Bill falls heavily on local authorities and will also entail major changes in planning and development ethos. They require greater leadership and direction from central government to fulfil the role assigned to them. But It is imperative that the envelope of emissions is respected and audited with the same rigour as the national accounts are.  In this manner the new post carbon benefits that will emerge for the Irish economy and society will be realised. 

An Taisce Chair, Philip Kearney, said:

“An Taisce recognises that the transition the Bill envisages will not be easy and will entail fundamental reconfiguration of the Irish economy in terms of our energy, agriculture, transport and housing systems. Just Transition arrangements must be integral to this journey. But the Bill offers a useful first step which must not be allowed to wither on the vine as other initiatives in the past have. The price of failure now is simply too high.”