What a week, Broken Promises, Carbon Budgets and More Promises.
Posted by Molly Walsh on December 22, 2010 at 02:38 PM
What a week. What a year.
I started last week feeling rather concerned. John Gormley had promised that the Climate Bill would be published before the Dail session ended for Christmas and that was on Thursday. I've lived through a year of broken promises and pushed out deadlines, could it really be about to happen? I didn't have any indication either way but my experience taught me to be concerned.
On Tuesday Ciaran Cuffe was speaking at the IIEA about his experience in Cancun. He opened his speech by saying that coming back from Cancun was like coming out of the frying pan and into the fire, as he had gone straight into negotiations about the Climate Bill.
I wasn't in Cancun this year, I didn't think me being there would make enough difference to justify the carbon footprint of a flight to Mexico. Colleagues in the Friends of th Earth network were there though and you can read the FoE reaction here. The UN has once again left us with a weak deal without legally binding emissions cuts. Speaking about Cancun, Minister Cuffe said that the Cancun agreements saved the process but didn't save the planet. About the Bill he said the same thing he said in his speech in Cancun. "Our approach is novel, Our outlook progressive". When the politicians say things like this I think "Huh?" What they hell do you mean?". These are close to meaningless phrases. At least he was continuing to make the promise publically about it being published before Christmas. Speaking with him afterwards it was clear that frantic negotiations were still ongoing between the Greens and the rest of Government. It was also clear however that he was well aware of the pressure that Friends of the Earth were keeping on the Greens. The all I want for Christmas action was working.
Timing-wise it was therefore very interesting to note that the IFA were on the radio on Wednesday claiming that the Bill was being "rushed through", surely a pre-mature claim for a Bill not even published never mind in the Dáil. We issued a press release refuting their claims the next day.
So Thursday dawned and we knew that it was Carbon Budget day, but we couldn't find out if the Minister for the Environment was going to hold a press conference on it as he had done in previous years. Today was the last day of the Dáil session and the Carbon Budget was the natural time to announce the Bill's publication. Eventually about midday we found out that it had been decided that it would just be the Dail speech and no press conference. The Carbon Budget is not what it once was.
Myself and our Director Oisín Coghlan went into the Dail to watch the Ministers climate speech. From what we were hearing it was clear the Bill wasn't being published today but Minister Gormley was going to outline much of the content of the bill in his speech. Almost all of the Green Parliamentary party was in the Dail to see Minister Gormley give his speech, Including all three senators. not surprising really given that hey have all received hundreds of emails from Friends of the Earth campaigners saying "all i want for Christmas is a climate bill". Minister Gromley made his speech and the Fine Gael and Labour spokespeople made their comments. You can read the full debate on the Oireachtas website. You can also watch it online on the Dáil playback system follow the link the Carbon Budget bit starts at 03.23.58.
Minister Gromley made a strong speech, and said all the right things. The content of the Bill that he was outlining has strengths and weaknesses. It will be hard to tell exactly how good the Bill is until it is published and we can actually read it. One big worry however is the lack of legally binding five year Carbon Budgets. If a Government can serve a five-year term without ever facing a legal target it would render the Bill toothless.
Another thing that really struck me about the debate was how strong and supportive Phil Hogan of Fine Gael was, He said
"I acknowledge that after three and a half years in government, the Green Party has made a major contribution to the climate change debate. Next week, the Green Party Ministers will announce a climate change Bill which is excellent progress. I know it was not easy for the Ministers to pursue this matter through Cabinet because it is an area with many vested and conflicting interests. Fine Gael will be as a constructive as always in the climate change committee when the Bill comes before it."
Our press release on what was said that day is here. As we say in the press release another broken promise but with a more detailed IOU. And this is true. However I think that 2010 was a year that we can all be proud of. Everyone who campaigned for climate legislation in any way has made a huge impact. The Government knows people are paying attention to this issue and they have to deliver. We know our activists and campaigners still have a big fight ahead. Getting the Bill published was only ever the first stage. With vested interests like the IFA mobilising against the legislation now, getting a strong bill through the Dail won't be easy. Lots of us are up for the fight now and more are jumping on board all the time.
So Happy Christmas everyone, enjoy the break and see you in January for an Ass-kicking new year!