Climate Bill is an important step in the right direction but ambition must increase significantly in climate action plans
March 24 2021, 11:56am
The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition today acknowledged the potential for the new Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 to shift Ireland’s approach to climate change from rhetroic into action . The Coalition is encouraged by the progress in establishing robust governance mechanisms to ensure coordination and accountability across Government. The fact that the carbon budgets explicitly cover the whole economy and all greenhouse gas emissions, especially methane, is particularly welcome. However the coalition warned that net zero 2050 targets were increasingly inconsistent with climate science, as they provide no guarantee of holding global warming below 1.5 degrees . Some weaknesses in the Bill mean that there is a degree of discretion available to Ministers in sticking to the carbon budgets, and there are no penalties if targets are missed, or if the budgets are exceeded. The burden of failure will simply be passed down to the next government and the next generation of Irish citizens.
Sadhbh O’ Neill, Policy Coordinator for the Coalition said:
“The Bill is a significant improvement upon the version published in October, which was full of loopholes and vague language. The different elements of that draft were not linked together properly or to a binding quantitative target for 2030 or even 2050, but this version seems more robust. The new carbon budgeting process can focus minds and ensure that all sectors play their part in reducing emissions.
We should be clear however that this is just the starting line. Targets are only as good as the actions taken to meet them, and the upcoming national action plan needs to outline the changes that will deliver rapid and sustained emissions reductions of 7% every year.”
Public participation and engagement is key to sustained climate action
Stop Climate Chaos has campaigned for faster and fairer climate action for over a decade, alongside a growing network of civil society organisations and a new network of activist groups all over the country. Our campaigning and advocacy work has driven home the message to political leaders that the public is watching, the climate movement is growing and that people will not stand by while the planet burns.
According to Fergal Costello of the Dublin Friends of the Earth group:
“Dublin Friends of the Earth recognises and welcomes the progress contained in the amended Climate Bill. Although it is only a start, it has potential for producing significant reductions in our carbon emissions. We are strongly of the view that the key to further improvement to bring us in line with our commitments under the Paris Agreement, is continuous public engagement in the ongoing process of climate policy formulation and implementation.”
Ambition must increase to deliver Ireland’s ‘fair share’ of the global effort and real climate justice
Some researchers estimate that Ireland’s fair share of the global carbon budget will run out as soon as 2024, after which we will be in significant ‘carbon debt’. Furthermore ‘net’ targets rely on unproven speculative technologies, purchasing offsets, or large-scale biomass projects. The IPCC’s landmark 2018 report makes clear that even 1.5 degrees of warming poses unacceptable risks and threatens livelihoods and lives everywhere in the world. However, climate change does not affect us all equally, impacting first and most profoundly on poor countries and communities who have done least to cause the problem and who have the least resources to cope.
Conor O’Neill, Policy Advisor at Christian Aid Ireland said:
“The World Bank estimates that climate change could push a further 132 million people into poverty over the next 10 years, undoing hard-won development gains. There’s a clear global justice aspect to this, and as a wealthy, high-emitting country Ireland has a duty to significantly up its ambition. We have to get our emissions down quickly.
A target of net zero by 2050 is simply too late, flying in the face of scientific advice presented to the Oireachtas and our fair share of the global effort needed to deliver on the Paris Agreement. This must be the floor rather than the ceiling of our ambition if we’re to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown and protect the most vulnerable, at home and abroad.”
Bill very weak on social justice
The coalition expressed its disappointment with the very weak provisions in the Bill on ensuring a Just Transition for workers and communities affected by rapid change.
According to Dr. Ciara Murphy of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice:
"Achieving a 7% decrease in emissions per year until 2030 will require changes in every aspect of our society including housing, transport and possibly the end of some indigenious industries. We need strong protections for the most vulnerable in our society to ensure that climate actions do not lead to further social exclusion and marginalisation. The Bill should require that all measures in the Climate Action Plans are equality proofed.”
Need for progress on ending offshore gas exploration and on banning fracked gas imports through LNG terminals
Despite much speculation that the Bill would give effect to the Programme for Government commitment to end offshore exploration licencing, there is no mention of this in the draft Bill.
Jerry MacEvilly, Policy Advisor for Friends of the Earth commented:
“It is essential that the Government respects their commitment in February to give statutory effect to the ending of new licences for the exploration and extraction of fossil gas. We note that this commitment has not yet been addressed in the Bill but it is welcome that the Government has confirmed that this will be provided for later in the legislative process.
In terms of LNG and fracked gas, the Minister has promised to bring forward a policy statement within 6 weeks in order to ban fracked gas imports. The Government should also take the opportunity at Committee stage to give certainty, taking into account recent legal analysis of trade rules, and address the Oireachtas recommendation to consider using the Climate Bill to “ban the importation of fracked gas and specifically to ban LNG terminals in Ireland”.
Welcome improvement on protecting and restoring biodiversity in the Bill
Oonagh Duggan of BirdWatch Ireland said:
“It is welcome to see improved focus on protecting and restoring biodiversity in the Bill and in particular on nature-based solutions to climate action, but much more needs to be done. We must not worsen the biodiversity emergency as we seek to tackle the climate emergency, with for example, forestry destroying high nature value farmland. Improvements must be made in the Bill to ensure that protecting biodiversity is copper fastened in law”.
1.Stop Climate Chaos (SCC) is a coalition of civil society organisations campaigning to ensure Ireland plays its part in preventing runaway climate change. It was launched in 2007 and is the largest network of organisations campaigning for action on climate change in Ireland. Its membership includes development, environmental, youth and faith-based organisations. Its members are: Afri, An Taisce, BirdWatch Ireland, Christian Aid Ireland, Comhlámh, Community Work Ireland, Clare PPN, Concern Worldwide, Cultivate, Cyclist.ie, Dublin Friends of the Earth, Eco Congregation Ireland, ECO UNESCO, Feasta, Fossil Free TCD, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the Irish Environment, Goal, Good Energies Alliance Ireland, Irish Climate and Health Alliance, Irish Heart Foundation, Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, Just Forests, Latin America Solidarity Centre (LASC), Liberia Solidarity Group, Methodist Church of Ireland – Council of Social Responsibility, Mountmellick Environmental Group, National Youth Council of Ireland, Oxfam Ireland, Peoples’ Climate Ireland, Presentation Ireland, Self Help Africa, Tearfund Ireland, Trócaire, VITA, VOICE, and Young Friends of the Earth.
2. See Skelton, A. et al, ‘10 myths about net zero targets and carbon offsetting, busted’ Climate Change News 11th December 2020.
3. McMullin, B., Price, P., Jones, M.B. and McGeever, A.H., 2019. Assessing negative carbon dioxide emissions from the perspective of a national “fair share” of the remaining global carbon budget. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, pp.1-24.
4. Anderson, K. and Peters, G., 2016. The trouble with negative emissions. Science, 354(6309), pp.182-183.
5. Human Rights Law Clinic, NUIG ‘Legal Opinion on the compatibility with EU, EFTA, WTO trade rules of proposed amendments to the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act 1960 to prohibit the importation or sale of fracked gas’ 10th November 2020 .