The Environmental Pillar is disappointed​ ​with the​ Heads of Bill published by the government.

Today the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan published the heads of the long awaited Climate Change Bill along with ​a​ new three page government policy on climate change.

"The heads of the new bill are underwhelming given the huge challenges the country faces through climate change,’ said Charles Stanley-Smith of the Environmental Pillar.

“The Pillar welcomes the publication of the bill as a significant step forward but feels that the bill, as presented, needs to be strengthened.

“​In 2011, faced with fiscal crisis, the Oireachtas passed a Fiscal Responsibility Act, providing for a Fiscal Advisory Council. The ordinary systems of governance were seen to be inadequate to deal with the crisis.

“Climate Change is a much bigger, long-term crisis and a similar level of commitment is needed here. One of the key​ recommendations of the Oireachtas Environment Committe​e was that a Climate Advisory Council be modelled on the Fiscal Advisory Council.​ That recommendation has been ignored.

“The weakness of the Bill seems to be due to opposition from key Departments including Agriculture and Transport.

“The proposed Climate Bill does not​ tackle Food Harvest 2020 and the emissions associated with ​it​.

“Under Food Harvest 2020 significant increases in beef and dairy herds are proposed but it not clear how this can be done and achieve carbon neutrality in the agriculture sector.

​​“In​stead ​the National Policy Position states that the approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture sector will not ‘compromise capacity for sustainable food production’. This concept of sustainable food production has not been clearly defined. It could be used to allow the sector escape commitments on emissions.

​“In relation to fossil fuel emissions, Minister Hogan told the Oireachtas Environment Committee last year that Government policy was to achieve near zero emissions by 2050, based on work by the NESC Secretariat.

“Today's Government Policy Position says the policy is only an 80% reduction by 2050. 80% reductions by developed countries such as Ireland will not be enough to meet our global 2 degree target.​

“We have had no explanation from Minister Hogan for this change in policy but we understand it to be due to resistance from Departments such as Transport which are unwilling to make the radical changes needed to decarbonise the economy.

“​We urge the Oireachtas members to stand over their report when the Bill is produced, and ensure that it is amended to provide for a strong​ ​Climate Advisory Council made up of independent experts along the model of the Fiscal Advisory Council.​