Citizens’ Assembly report a mandate for revolutionising Ireland’s climate policy
In-depth examination by a dedicated Oireachtas Committee an essential next step
April 18 2018, 07:33am
The Citizens’ Assembly has published its report on climate change (Report here, Assembly press release here). The report includes the Assembly’s 13 recommendations on ‘how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change’. These were agreed by the Assembly after four days of expert presentations in 2017 and following a major public consultation which received close to 2000 submissions.
The Stop Climate Chaos coalition* is calling on the Government to respect the mandate of the Assembly by immediately establishing a dedicated Oireachtas Committee to take the report's recommendations forward, as was done with the Assembly report on the eight amendment to the Constitution.
Commenting on the report, a Stop Climate Chaos spokesperson, Oisin Coghlan, said:
"The Government must take the Citizens' Assembly report on climate as seriously as it took its report on the Eight Amendment.
"A dedicated Oireachtas Committee should be established immediately to take the report forward in line with the constructive approach of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment.
"If implemented, the recommendations for climate action in the Assembly’s report would move Ireland from its current position as a laggard not a leader, as the Taoiseach told the European Parliament in January."
Sorley McCaughey, Head of Advocacy and Policy at Christian Aid Ireland commented:
“Climate change is already having devastating effects on vulnerable communities around the world who have done the least to fuel the crisis.
"If the Government is truly committed to national and EU climate change obligations, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals, the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations must be immediately developed into constructive policies in order to drastically reduce our polluting emissions and reverse our position as the climate laggard of Europe.”
In line with the Eighth Amendment process, the creation of a new Committee would ensure that the Oireachtas is given the opportunity to thoroughly examine the Assembly’s recommendations and to produce specific proposals to significantly improve current policies. Ireland’s deteriorating climate record has been consistently raised by national and international authorities in the past year with the Taoiseach most recently acknowledging Ireland’s position as a climate laggard at the European Parliament.
Stop Climate Chaos has written to the Dáil Business Committee asking that the Assembly's report be referred an Oireachtas Committee.
The most striking recommendations to the Government from the Citizens’ Assembly include:
- Prioritise public transport investment over new road infrastructure spending at a ratio of no less than 2-to-1. Currently the majority of state investment goes to road building which means more cars and more emissions.
- An end to all State subsidies for peat extraction on a phased basis over the next five years. That would bring peat-firing for electricity to an end a lot sooner than 2030, which is Bord Na Mona’s current plan. An end to subsidies for peat extraction would cover not just the subsidies for burning peat for electricity but the subsidies for burning biomass with peat as well.
- Establishment of an independent watchdog with clear powers to make sure the State sets and meets five-yearly targets for emissions reductions. The introduction of such targets were removed from climate legislation by the government before it passed in 2015.
- The Citizens’ own willingness to pay higher taxes on carbon pollution and their recommendation that the agriculture sector should also apply the ‘polluter pays principle’ to its emissions, such that the resulting revenue is reinvested to support climate friendly agricultural practices for farmers.
* Stop Climate Chaos Coalition is the civil society coalition campaigning for Ireland to do its fair share to tackle climate change. The Coalition’s 33 members include overseas aid and development, environmental, youth and faith-based organisations.
The final report, as well as presentations and transcripts from the Assembly's sessions, are available at www.citizensassembly.ie
Notes for the Editor:
- Ireland is the third highest producer of emissions per person in the EU, and eighth in the OECD with polluting emissions increasing by 3.7% in 2015. Ireland is only one of five EU Member States which is set to miss its 2020 emission reduction targets under the EU Effort Sharing Decision, and the only one of these five States where emissions are predicted to continue to rise. See analysis from European Environment Agency available here.
- In January 2018 at the European Parliament, the Taoiseach responded to criticism of Ireland’s climate record and stated: 'As far as I am concerned, we are a laggard. I am not proud of Ireland’s performance on climate change....There are lots of things that we intend to do so that we can meet those targets. It’s something that I am very committed to, and certainly my generation of politicians is committed to. It’s not just the right thing to do; it makes sense economically, I think, in the longer term as well.'
- In December 2017 at the Dublin Food Wise 2025 conference the EU Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan emphasised that ‘Ireland needs to wake up, and fast, to the reality that we are part of a European Union that has assumed the role of global leader in the climate challenge’ and warned that ‘…the day has gone where we can pay lip service to sustainability and climate action”.
- In November 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency released its latest analysis which shows that Ireland’s emissions increased markedly in 2016, following another substantial increase in 2015. The EPA noted that ‘Achieving Ireland’s long-term decarbonisation objective can only take place with a transformation of our energy, agriculture and transport systems.’ and highlighted that the largescale expansion of dairy and cattle production in particular ‘…points to very significant risks in relation to meeting our decarbonisation objectives’.
- In December 2017, Ireland’s Climate Change Advisory Council produced its first Annual Review report, which provides an independent, expert assessment of Ireland’s performance on climate change. The Council highlighted that 'By 2020, transport and agriculture are projected to account for 74% of emissions outside of electricity generation and heavy industry. Simply put, Ireland will miss its [EU] target of reducing emissions by 20% by 2020 by a large margin.'
- Analysis by the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform, and by UCC, has shown that without new, immediate and substantive efforts to cut emissions, Ireland faces financial penalties in the region of €500 million by 2020 for failing to comply with our EU climate and renewable energy commitments Analysis by the IIEA estimates that Ireland may face non-compliance costs of between €3bn and €6bn by 2030 for failing to reduce emissions unless further action is taken.
- In November 2017, Ireland was ranked the worst performing country in Europe for action on climate change. The Climate Change Performance Index, which is produced annually on the basis of joint analysis by two leading European think-tanks, placed Ireland 49th out of 56 countries, a drop of 28 places from last year.
- As reported in several media articles**, the Government has called for weaker climate obligations at international level, including support for the addition of exemptions and allowances in EU legislation relating to climate and energy. The inclusion of such loopholes in EU legislation does not merely ensure that Ireland is not tasked with doing its fair share but also negatively impacts all Member States, undermining rather than supporting greater EU collective action. Exemptions allowed to Ireland have most recently been described as ‘scandalous’ by the major Brussels think-tank, Transport and Environment.
- The Government is lagging behind the public on support for climate action. In a Eurobarometer poll carried out in 2017, of all 28 EU member states Irish people responded most favourably to the statement "Fighting climate change and using energy more efficiently can boost the economy and jobs in the EU" (88%). The poll shows that Ireland is 4th strongest on the need for our own government to "increase the amount of renewable energy used, such as wind or solar power, by 2030". 96% of 1,021 respondents in Ireland said that was important or very important.