Carbon Budget a litmus test of climate change commitments

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Government must learn the lesson of the financial crisis

Friends of the Earth has described today's Carbon Budget as "a litmus test of the Government's commitment on climate change". The environmental charity has warned that the Carbon Budget must tackle Ireland's spiralling emissions in the same way yesterday's Budget tackled the spiralling deficit. The Programme for Government promises to reduce emissions by 3 per cent a year but in fact the latest figures from the EPA show they actually increased in 2007.

Friends of the Earth Director, Oisin Coghlan, said

"Yesterday's financial Budget was tough because the Government waited until crisis became crash before acting. It failed to heed the warning signs and acted as if the economy could boom forever without consequence. The Government must learn the lesson of the financial crisis. We have to react now to warning signals on climate change. If we wait for the climate equivalent of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, there will be no way back."

In framing yesterdays Budget the Government faced a financial deficit of 8% of GDP. The measures announced will reduce borrowing to 6.5% of GDP in 2009. In framing today's Carbon Budget the Government faces a Kyoto overshoot of 5 million tonones of CO2. The Carbon Budget must set out measures will that deliver a similar cut in emissions, and the figures to prove it.

Today's statement from Minister Gormley must do more than update last year's pollution figures and announce a wish list of policy measures. The structure of today's Carbon Budget will tell us to what extent the whole of Government has taken responsibility for meeting Ireland's climate change commitments:

* Just as the financial Budget sets out total planned spending for next year, the Carbon Budget must set out the total planned emissions for next year.
* Just as the financial Budget allocates spending limits to departments and sectors, the Carbon Budget must allocate emission limits to each department and sector.
* Just as the financial Budget assigns responsibility to individual Ministers to deliver spending cuts and live within their departmental budget, the Carbon Budget must assign responsibility to individual ministers to deliver emissions cuts in their sector and to live with their departmental carbon budget.

"Unless the Carbon Budget sets a cap on total emissions and allocates limits to each Department that each Minister is responsible for delivering, it will fail to achieve the 3% annual cuts the Government as a whole is committed to", Mr Coghlan continued.

"To borrow a phrase from Minister Lenihan yesterday 'there is too much at stake: we all have too much to lose by not taking action now'. If you think a financial crash is bad you should see what a climate crash will look like," Mr Coghlan concluded.

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Climate Change