Reflections on the sectoral emissions deal

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We've been fighting hard to protect Ireland's climate targets

Last month the Government did a deal on agricultural emissions that enabled them to set - for the first time ever - binding 2030 emissions targets for every sector of the economy and society. The emissions deal leaves us with mixed feelings. It’s not good enough to meet the overall 51% target in the climate law, the Climate Advisory Council calculates that it amounts to a 43% cut by 2030. But it is good enough to drive increased climate action and it would have been much worse if the process had collapsed altogether.

In practical terms, it is the most significant moment in Irish climate policy so far, as we move from the abstraction of legislation to actual sectoral responsibility. To put it another way, we didn’t get everything we need from agriculture but the powerful agri-business lobbyists didn’t get everything they wanted either. The IFA no longer has a veto on climate policy and that is significant for the future.But it was a close run thing. The agri-sector launched their biggest climate policy campaign since they killed the 2010 Climate Bill and they caught us off guard. Their lobbying was relentless and we were playing catch-up. This snippet from the Irish Times review of the outcome says it all:

Irish Times snippet on sectoral emissions deal

When that Fianna Fáil source says “environmental NGOs also upped their game” they really mean you, us, the Friends of the Earth community, and our allies and partners in the Stop Climate Chaos coalition and the Environmental Pillar.Hundreds of us emailed your local TDs, dozens of you called them up to let them know you wanted every sector to do their fair share. And as you may have seen in the media coverage (see some of the media highlights featuring FoE here) your Friends of the Earth team did our best to inform and shape public debate on the decision, putting the spotlight on the science, the expert analysis, and the value of fair and fast climate action. By acting together we made a real difference. Thank you!

What can we learn from the experience?

My main takeaway is that together we have the power to get Ireland on the path to radically reducing our emissions but we mustn’t let our guard down again. We have to keep building our movement and organizing ourselves to support all the positive but contested policies and measures that will be needed to halve emissions in 8 years, from giving more roadspace to cycling and walking to making sure we don’t get locked into fossil gas for another 30 years. This time around it’s fair to say I forgot to follow the main thing I’ve always said about what the climate law means. It changes the rules of the game, it levels the playing field between those of us who want serious climate action and those who want to delay or dodge, but we still have to get on the pitch and win every policy battle.

We need more people taking action with us

Friends of the Earth supports people who are concerned about the climate crisis to take action together. We bring diverse groups together to unite in the fight for climate justice because we know that together our voice is louder - and our collective expertise makes us stronger. One of the ways we bring people together to campaign on climate is by supporting the One Future network

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One Future is the network of people across Ireland who want to do more to push for climate action. With the right support they are prepared to pick up the phone to their TDs, or get together locally to oppose a new data centre, support a new cycleway or hold a public information stall in their community.There are One Future members in almost every constituency in Ireland. Not all of them are fully-organised as groups yet but if you’re on the mailing list we’ll make sure you are the first to know about opportunities to step up your campaigning action

What’s next? What can we do together?

The real work starts now.In November, the Government will be publishing the Climate Action Plan 2023. That’s the concrete policies and measures to actually reduce emissions. This is the really important bit. There’s been more than enough talking about “whether” and “how much?” It’s time to focus on the how.In the coming weeks, we’ll be pulling together our top ideas. And we’ll be thinking big. It’s past time for half measures.In fact, if you want to share your own ideas with us now, please do. Pop us an email and let’s put our heads together! We’ll be back to you in early September with our “Top Ten”. And then it’ll be time for an all out push to get as many of them as possible into the final Climate Action Plan. We’ll be asking you to submit ideas to the public consultation that closes on 20th September. We’ll be asking you to contact your TDs. We’ll be holding webinars. And there are plans for a public demonstration or a march before the Plan is published, to coincide with this year’s UN climate negotiations in Egypt. 

Reasons for hope

I started by saying that the recent emissions deal wasn’t good enough to meet Ireland’s target of reducing its emissions by 51% by 2030 target. But it’s vital that you know that we are making progress. It’s only two years since our collective campaigning helped get that target increased from about 25%.

There were some despairing headlines recently when EPA analysis showed that last year’s Action Plan only amounted to a 28% reduction by 2030. What those headlines missed was that this is still progress. Those projections said emissions would be 42Mt in 2030. When they last made the calculation, before last year’s plan was published, they reckoned our emissions would be 48Mt. This year’s plan will be better than last year’s. Next year’s will be better again. It’s an iterative process. It’s only a couple of years since the EPA was projecting our emissions in 2030 would be much the same as the roughly 60Mt they were in 2018.

And every tonne counts, to reduce Ireland’s actual climate impact and to show the world that Ireland, as one the richest countries in the world with among the highest per person pollution, is finally taking climate action seriously. Together we have played a huge role in getting that 2030 number down from 60Mt to 42Mt. But the lesson of the last few weeks is that we can’t take anything for granted. Now we need to make sure we actually take action, and keep ratcheting up our ambition, until Ireland is doing its fair share of the global effort to address climate change, under the Paris Agreement.

The lobbyists who want to delay or dilute action have more money than we do. We have you. We have each other. You can see what we have achieved together so far. Imagine what we could do if there were more of us, doing a bit more, giving a bit more, getting others to join in. That thought gives us such hope. It’s what keeps us going. We trust it gives you a sense of hope too!