Oireachtas Committee recommendations would greatly strengthen Climate Bill


Oireachtas Committee recommendations would greatly strengthen Climate Bill

Government should accept recommendations and bring the reworked Bill to the Dáil as soon as possible

December 18 2020, 03:51pm

The Stop Climate Chaos coalition has welcomed today’s publication of the much anticipated report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA) dealing with the draft Climate Action Bill, which underwent pre-legislative scrutiny over the past number of weeks. 

The report puts a spotlight on the weaknesses in the Bill identified by many experts that came before the Committee, and by Stop Climate Chaos when the original draft was published in October. It makes specific recommendations to the Government on fixing those loopholes before the Bill comes to the Dáil to be formally debated in the New Year.

It is good news for climate action that Committee members have agreed a wide-ranging set of recommendations that will greatly strengthen the bill. It is now up to the Government to respond positively to this clear cross-party mandate on the Bill.

Oisín Coghlan, Coordinator of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, commented:

“Committee members from all parties and none and have done a huge amount of work on the Climate Bill over the last two months, and they have clearly listened very carefully to the expert witnesses they heard from.

“We welcome the cross-party recognition that the draft Bill was weak and that it failed to deliver a robust legal framework for climate action. Thankfully, the Committee has recommended that the Bill be redrafted so that it creates clear legal obligations on the Minister, including a duty to ensure that the national climate objective of net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest is actually achieved.

“Crucially, the recommendation that the 5-year emissions ceilings, to be introduced next year, must be consistent with the commitment in the Programme for Government to cut emissions by 7% a year on average will provide a legal imperative for action in all sectors.” 
The Committee has also recommended that the National Climate Objective be amended so that it is achieved by 2050 ‘at the latest’ and that the Climate Change Advisory Council is tasked with reviewing the adequacy of this target against Ireland’s commitments under articles 2 and 4 of the Paris Agreement. 

Michael McCarthy Flynn of Oxfam Ireland commented:

“Climate scientists and global justice organisations have been pointing out that achieving net zero emissions by 2050 is too late to have any hope of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees. If climate justice is to have any practical meaning, it requires developed countries such as Ireland to do their fair share of reducing emissions rapidly and to support vulnerable developing countries with adequate climate finance.
“The Committee recommendation to make provision for loss and damage to and give greater support to developing countries through climate finance is significant. However it is essential that the new climate law and all policies that flow from that law drive emission reductions on the scale of what is required of wealthy countries with high per capita emissions such as Ireland." 

As Prof. Kevin Anderson noted during the Committee hearings, “many people are already dying from climate change and with the 1.5°C to 2°C target, many more people will die”, and they will disproportionately be women and children, black or brown, poorer and more vulnerable, from the Global South, and have done least to cause climate change . 

Ciara Murphy of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice commented:

“The Committee’s recommendations also call for provisions in the Bill relating to biodiversity protection, just transition and climate justice. There are also recommendations to track emissions from shipping and aviation, as well as emissions caused by consumption here of products produced overseas.
"All in all, if the Government accepts these recommendations then the Bill will ensure that Ireland is measuring, reporting and acting on our real climate impact.” 

The 5 tests set by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition
Before the Government published its draft Bill and the Committee began its scrutiny, the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, published 5 tests for the effectiveness of the Bill. Here is our topline analysis of what the Committee recommends on the issues we raised.

1. Does it put Ireland’s 2050 net zero emission’s target into law, and set it as the floor, not the ceiling, of our ambition?
The Committee recommends that the 2050 target is to be achieved ‘at the latest’ with periodic reviews by the CCAC of the adequacy of that target. These reviews will be crucial, as climate scientists and global justice organisations have pointed out that net zero emissions by 2050 is far too late to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees.

2. Does it create a fully independent expert Council to advise the Government and monitor progress?
The Committee recommends that the government consider making the CCAC a fully independent body. The JOCCA also recommended some changes to the membership criteria for the Council but proposes to retain the ex officio members (Teagasc, EPA and Met Éireann).

3. Does it mandate the Government to propose 5-year pollution limits or carbon budgets that will be legally binding once adopted by the Dáil?
The Committee recommends enshrining the 2030 emissions reduction target agreed in the Programme for Government in law as interim target on the path to the national climate objective (NCO). And recommends that the 5-year carbon budgets must be consistent with the NCO, the 2030 target and also the Paris Agreement and the latest climate science. 

4. Will the 5-year pollution limits include all greenhouses gases and all sectors of the economy?
The definition of the carbon budget and greenhouse gases that it applied to in the draft Bill is vague and it was not clear if it applied to all 6 GHGs. The Committee recommended that the definition of the carbon budget be clarified to include all GHGs on the basis of their global warming potential. 

5. Does the Bill provide for robust Ministerial accountability to the Oireachtas for keeping within the legally binding pollution limits?
The JOCCA report recommends that all plans of government and public bodies must be consistent with the targets and recommends strengthening the provisions for Ministerial  accountability to the Oireachtas committee, and recommends the creation of a duty on the Minister to ensure that the national climate objective is achieved.