Environmental and developing world social justice organisations in Ireland have slammed Minister Phil Hogan’s new Climate Bill. After months, indeed years of delay, the Bill, announced on 26th February, lacks targets, campaigners say. Stop Climate Chaos, a coalition of 27 groups working together on climate change, expressed “frustration at the weakness of draft climate legislation.”
“This Bill doesn’t have what is needed to be effective. Without a named target for 2050 there isn’t certainty surrounding government policy, and the legislation won’t deliver a low carbon Ireland. It is simply too weak to work” Sorley McCaughey from Christian Aid said.
“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has indicated that developed countries like Ireland must reduce our emissions by 80 to 95% by 2050. There is no justification for omitting this solid scientifically based objective from the Bill“, said Ciara Kirrane from Trócaire.
“Economic transition to a low-carbon economy is a long-term goal and emissions targets should be set for every 5 year period up to a decarbonised economy in 2050. Without targets there is nothing in the Bill to drive the transition.” said Ciara Gaynor from Oxfam.
Ireland has the 10th highest ecological footprint per person in the world. “Ireland’s per capita aggregate GHG emissions are the second highest in the EU” according to Ireland’s own Environmental Protection Agency and Central Stastics Office. Agriculture accounts for almost 30% of Irish emissions.
Climate change has slipped down the list of priorities in Ireland quite spectacularly since the recession begun, which coincided with the Green Party leaving its minority role in government: “the total number of articles on climate change in Irish newspapers fell from 2,780 in 2009 to only 972 in 2012” according to Harry McGee.
The Bill announced retains the binding EU targets for 2020, but puts off hard decisions for the 2020 to 2050 period. The Minister said “there are no easy answers to the greenhouse gas mitigation challenge…ultimate decisions on the way forward will be taken on the basis of a fair hearing for all stakeholders, and will provide a platform for a strong stakeholder and wider-society consensus on the fundamental objective of becoming a low carbon, climate resilient society with a competitive low-carbon economy over the period to 2050.”
Instead of binding targets, a climate policy analysis report from the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), outlines a carbon-neutral vision for Ireland by 2050. This document lists “economic prosperity, recovery and social development” as the first of five guiding principals on climate action.
It does at least make reference to an “oddly prescient” 17th Century Haiku in the preface: “even in Kyoto, when I hear the cuckoo, I long for Kyoto”.
Considering the gravity of the climate change challenge, what’s perhaps more prescient, and also emblematic of the report’s logic, is the informal meaning attached to that bird’s name.