Climate Bill’s ambition must be increased and loopholes closed
16 Nov 2020
On the eve of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action's first meeting to discuss their recommendations to Minister Eamon Ryan on Climate Bill, the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition publish key demands informed by new expert testimony.
The Stop Climate Chaos coalition of over 40 civil society organisations today published its recommendations for amendments to the draft Climate Action Bill [1,2]. The Coalition's recommendations have been informed by the testimony of over a dozen expert witnesses, who came before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA) in recent weeks.
The Coalition says that the Bill must be revised so that its overall target is a robust, science-based, legally binding target for climate neutrality that represents Ireland’s fair share of effort under the Paris Agreement. Many expert witnesses who came before JOCCA advised that 2050 is far too late for the achievement of net zero emissions by Ireland and that the current draft does not reflect the fair share of effort required by rich countries under the Paris Agreement.
Conor O’Neill, Advocacy & Policy Officer with Christian Aid Ireland said:
"Many of the world’s poorest communities, who have done least to cause climate change, are already facing extreme flooding, drought and heatwaves. Climate justice means wealthier, highly polluting countries like Ireland doing more. A target of net zero emissions by 2050 is far too late, and well short of our fair share under the Paris Agreement.”
SCC has recommended that the Bill follow the model in Scottish climate legislation by including a definition of a ‘fair and safe emissions budget’ to which the Government, when adopting carbon budgets, must have regard. These budgets should not rely on negative emission technologies.
Theresa O'Donohoe of An Taisce Climate Committee said:
"The Bill must include interim targets that provide frequent and focused moments of accountability to ensure that the Minister is required to take corrective measures if emissions are not declining as planned. The carbon budgets should be pegged to interim targets for 2030, 2035 and 2040 that drive an emissions reduction trajectory consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C."
Stop Climate Chaos has also recommended that the governance framework connecting the climate plans and carbon budgets be strengthened, to ensure that future governments cannot set carbon budgets that are explicitly inconsistent with the 2050 objective. The Coalition is also advocating for a clear and precise definition of a carbon budget, and the removal of any special reference to agriculture or the role of biogenic methane.
Sadhbh O’Neill, Stop Climate Chaos Policy Coordinator said:
"What we count as an emission, and how we count our efforts to reduce emissions, will be key to transparent climate action. We can’t allow a situation where woolly language in this Bill permits dodgy accounting methods that hide Ireland’s real impact on the Earth’s atmosphere. All emissions must be tracked and that must include emissions from bunker fuels in international transport, and consumption based emissions that arise from importing energy-intensive products. The Bill has multiple references to ‘carbon leakage’ as if that only occurs in one direction. We should be seeking to lower our total carbon footprint because the atmosphere only responds to physics, not rhetoric or good intentions."
The Bill as currently drafted makes no mention of the need for a Just Transition. The Government and the Minister must be required to consider the distributive implications of climate policies on the fuel poor, vulnerable or isolated communities, and specific groups of workers whose livelihoods will be threatened by a move away from fossil fuels.
Dr Ciara Murphy from the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice said:
"It is inexcusable that Just Transition was left out of the draft Bill. Adequate protection for vulnerable social groups is crucial for a fair and successful decarbonisation of the economy. In this respect, the Bill should be amended to require the Minister to ensure that plans and policies are consistent with principles of a just and timely transition. These principles should be embedded in the legal and regulatory framework established by the Bill, to guide the policy decisions that will ultimately be made under it"
The Coalition is calling for a new provision in the Bill to require the Minister to prepare, publish and implement a permanent, large scale public engagement strategy no later than 31 December 2021. Stop Climate Chaos also argues that the Bill should be amended to ensure that actions to address climate breakdown and biodiversity loss are fully complementary. It must ensure that climate mitigation measures do not impact biodiversity such as wild birds, mammals, habitats and ecosystems.
Oonagh Duggan of BirdWatch Ireland said:
"Biodiversity is a critical component of the Earth system that regulates climate, and which supports life on this planet. If we do not protect and restore biodiversity we will not meet our long term climate goals. The Climate Bill must ensure that the nature-based solutions to climate action are included in the Bill and that biodiversity is safeguarded. This will mean introducing appropriate definitions of biodiversity and nature-based solutions so that the Climate Bill mainstreams biodiversity protection into decision-making and that no part of Ireland becomes a ‘sacrifice zone’ as we implement climate mitigation."
- 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.
- The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition’s new recommendations can be viewed in full at this link https://www.stopclimatechaos.ie/assets/files/pdf/scc_recommendations_jocca_climate_bill_nov2020.pdf