Expert report gives Government a C+ for delivery of their climate and environment commitments

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Significant groundwork achieved but current pace too slow to meet Government's own targets

The Government has been a awarded a C+ in independent expert assessment of progress on the climate and environment commitments in the Programme for Government. The Report Card 2021, commissioned by Friends of the Earth, was carried out by a three person academic panel who marked the Government out of 10 in nine subject areas from climate to water to transport to air quality. The scores ranged from 8.5 for waste and 7.5 for climate to 4.5 for nature and biodiversity and 4 for agriculture and forestry. The panel's overall verdict was that "While significant groundwork has been achieved in a number of areas within the first year, the pace of progress is currently too slow to achieve the Government's targets relating to their environmental and climate commitments."

Report Card 2021
Download the Report Card here.

Chair of the assessment panel, Dr Cara Augustenborg, Environmental Policy Fellow at University College Dublin, said:

"While many of the Government's commitments are not yet visible in our everyday lives, environmental issues have clearly moved up the political agenda in the past year. Significant groundwork has been achieved to turn the Government's environment and climate commitments into action over the next 3-4 years. However, serious concerns remain regarding the Government's progress in addressing the biodiversity crisis, declining water quality, and the role of agriculture and forestry in these areas."

Highlights and lowlights:

The Government scored highly on some high profile subjects, including an 8 on Climate Governance where the panel found the climate law "delivered on the Government’s commitments to make provision for the enactment of ambitious 2030 and 2050 emissions targets and 5-year carbon budgets, in addition to enhancing the expertise and diversity of the Climate Change Advisory Council."

In other areas progress was disappointing. On Biodiversity the panel found "Commitments to review the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) mandate and convene a Citizens’ Assembly on biodiversity are progressing too slowly, and the Government has thus far failed to address their commitments on hedgerows, invasive species and implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan" and awarded the Government a 4.5.

Meanwhile in agriculture, where policy is frequently controversial and contested, the panel found: "Progress on the sustainability of Irish agriculture and forestry has been disappointing. Food Vision 2030 is incompatible with climate goals and emission reduction targets, perpetuates an agricultural model which is directly responsible for escalating nutrient pollution and locks Ireland into damaging water quality for the remainder of this Government" and awarded their lowest mark, a 4, for "Poor Progress".

Marks out of ten dials

Oisín Coghlan, Director of Friends of the Earth, who commissioned the independent assessment said:

"I would sum up this assessment as ‘Something done, a lot more to do’. The Government has laid the foundations for better climate and environmental performance in a number of areas but the pace of change is still too slow.

"For me the report highlights how essential it is that people and communities stay engaged in climate campaigning. Civil society pressure helped to secure the progressive commitments in the Programme for Government and only sustained engagement with our elected representatives will ensure they are delivered.

“As the Government moves from the planning to the implementation phase of climate action there will be ever more desperate calls from vocal lobby groups for special treatment, delays or exemptions. Only people power can counterbalance that and ensure Ireland does its fair share of climate action, that every sector pulls its weight and that the affected workers and communities get the support they need for the transition to a safer, cleaner, healthier future.”

Dr. Paul Deane, Senior Research Fellow in the MaREI Research Centre in University College Cork, said:

“I found this exercise very insightful. The process of reflecting on all environmental commitments from the Programme for Government in one go gives a unique perspective on the state of policy as opposed to piecemeal individual assessments. I found I changed my mind on a number of areas. I was impressed by the breadth of policy and successes in key areas such as the climate action bill, but disappointed with the pace of development that often seemed at odds with the urgency described in the Programme for Government.”

Dr Diarmuid Torney, Associate Professor, School of Law and Government, Dublin City University, said:

“Grading is a core part of the job of an academic and I have spent countless hours grading students’ work, but this was my first time grading the work of a government. I was reassured to find that there was a high degree of agreement among the three academic experts involved in the process, and that there were only marginal differences in our individual scoring that we completed in advance of meeting to finalise our collective scores. Overall we found there was some good progress in some areas but patchy progress elsewhere, particularly in terms of detailed sectoral implementation of climate and environmental commitments”

The assessment was based on information gathered from non governmetnal organisations, Government sources and the public record. Friends of the Earth plans to publish an updated Report Card on an annual basis.

For more, see our blog about the report here.