Photo credit: 350.org | People’s Climate Ireland and Young Friends of the Earth Protest.
Rory Fogarty take a look at how exasperated campaigners deride absent targets, weak mechanisms and ambiguous definitions.
The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015 was published on the 19th of January to a tepid response. After 3 years of waiting, exasperated environmental campaigners welcomed the arrival of Ireland’s first identifiable piece of climate change legislation, but simultaneously derided it for its absent targets, weak mechanisms and ambiguous definitions.
Ostensibly the Climate Action bill is designed to prepare Ireland for a transition
to a ‘low carbon economy’ by 2050. To facilitate this two national-strategy frameworks will be established; a National Mitigation Plan to lower greenhouse emissions, and a National Adaptation Framework to provide responses to changes cause by climate change. Also included in the the bill is the provision of an Expert Advisory Council made up of 9 to 11 members. However, the minister and the department of the environment will not be compelled to take the advice of the council.
Whilst these particulars should be viewed positively, they are minor successes when compared to the major pitfalls on the legislation. Firstly, the bill does not include the government’s own definition of low carbon and does not set out any specific targets to be reached on a national level. This allows the government near unlimited room to define its own success rate in the years leading to 2030 and ultimately 2050, the year zero of the climate change movement.
The bill can be deemed to be aggressively conservative in its reach. Basically only
re-affirming aims already committed to at an EU level (20% reduction on 1995 levels by 2020), it is only making up the numbers for the EU’s contribution of global emission cuts in the run up to the UN Climate Convention in Paris in November. Furthermore, the minister for the environment Alan Kelly chose not to include the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, which included guaranteeing the independence of the Expert Advisory Council, a definition of a low carbon economy, and the concept of climate justice, which this bill does not refer to once.
The Bill, without any of the all-party committee’s recommendations included, means very little. It will be little more than statement of intent, rather than any proactive policy change. In reality, without these recommendations, the bill is largely redundant. Given that the soft deadline for national contributions passed this March, and the Climate Action Tracker organisation, who have been assessing all pledges have declared that they are not sufficient to prevent warming of above 2C, it is easy to grasp how far short this bill falls.