Getting Ireland’s climate action “back on track”: What ​ exactly ​ does it mean?


19 January

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action is currently (Jan 2019) preparing its final report. The key background context to that report is the now widespread recognition that Ireland’s response to the challenge of climate change has become badly “off track” and that decisive action, across the full spectrum of societal needs and activities, is needed to address this. The threat of climate disruption is now so clear and present, that it is no longer enough to “do what we can”: we must be willing to do ​ what is necessary.

But what exactly does that mean? What are the key, summary, metrics or indicators of effective climate action? What ​ is ​ the “track” we should be on, and how quickly can we return to it?

This short briefing note (attached below), prepared by An Taisce's Climate Change Committee, provides our perspective on this central question. The answer is not complex: if we are, at last, serious about playing our fair, equitable, part in responding to climate change then our national emissions of greenhouse gases must start to fall rapidly, and keep falling year on year. Accordingly, we propose that the immediate key metric (or "KPI" in the language of a "Whole of Government Climate Action Plan", now promised by Minister Bruton) should be a fixed "budget" of total cumulative emissions over the next five year period (2019-2023), calculated on the basis of at least getting back on the "track" defined by Ireland's existing, voluntary, nationally determined, climate change mitigation objectives contained in the National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development of 2014.

In our view, the discipline of such a binding carbon budget, taking explicit priority over other important, but ultimately subsidiary, political objectives, is now the acid test of genuine Irish political commitment to climate action.