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4 tests for the revised climate Bill

Posted by Oisín Coghlan on April 14, 2014 at 12:35 AM

Weak Climate Bill 1 - Stop Climate Chaos coalition slams Climate Bill as too weak to work.
Stop Climate Chaos coalition slams Climate Bill as too weak to work.

A year ago, Friends of the Earth said the Government's draft Climate Bill was "like a car without an engine" and Stop Climate Chaos called it simply "too weak to work".
But the public hearings held by the Oireachtas Joint Committee last summer were very inclusive and thorough. Their subsequent report represents common ground across political parties and among a wide range of stakeholders on the contents of the Bill. Secondly, the process of developing a revised Heads of Bill is a test of the political reforms initiated by this Government to improve the democratic process by increasing the legislative role played by Oireachtas Committees. The courses of action highlighted in the report point to areas where significant improvements can be made to the Heads of Bill. While they are not as strong as we in would have liked, we believe they are the minimum that need to be reflected in the Bill in order to ensure its effectiveness. Specifically:

1. The necessity of defining a national objective for 2050 within the Bill.  
We still prefer an overall numerical target for 2050 as the best way to provide long-term certainty on policy direction, as in other jurisdictions. However, given the Government’s decision not to include a numerical target for 2050, the compromise proposal suggested in the report would at least restore credibility to the Bill. That is the inclusion, under Head 2 and Head 4.1, of the Minister’s definition of ‘low carbon development’ as ‘near zero emissions for 2050 in the energy, buildings and transport sectors, and carbon neutrality in the agriculture [and land use] sector’. The key thing at this juncture is to have a measurable benchmark in the Bill itself and not only in the Roadmap. The Roadmap will only last for 5 years, the Act will last until it is amended.

2. The necessity of ensuring the independence of the Climate Change Advisory Council.
The Council (which needs a more understandable name than the ‘National Expert Advisory Body’ as it was in the draft Heads) will be crucial to the successful implementation of the legislative objectives. Its independence is essential to its ability to carry out its functions. Ireland recognises the importance of such independence in other areas, such as the establishment of the Fiscal Advisory Council, and that model has now been recommended by the Oireachtas Committee. This Government passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which provides for the Fiscal Council to be statutorily independent and include no ex-officio members, and requires it to publish its reports within 10 days of giving them to the Minister. If we are serious about tackling climate change why would we make the Climate Advisory Council any weaker?

3. The importance of the sequencing and timing of national and sectoral plans and reporting. National and sectoral road maps lie at the heart of the proposed legislation. The requirement in the draft Heads of Bill for National Roadmaps to be produced not less than once every seven years is insufficient to address rapidly changing circumstances, and as highlighted in the Committee Report should be amended to a five-year cycle in the revised Heads of Bill. The proposed sequencing of national and sectoral roadmaps should also be amended in line with the Committee Report, which points out the inadequacy of developing a national road map only after the sectoral roadmaps are developed. Sectoral roadmaps must follow the national roadmap in order to be consistent with its overall objectives.

4. The opportunity to reflect a commitment to climate justice
We welcome the fact that the Oireachtas Committee report recommends the inclusion of the principle of climate justice in the Bill. This chimes with the Tánaiste's declaration to the UN General Assembly in 2011 that "there is a compelling case for 'climate justice' – bringing developmental fairness to bear on the climate change agenda". The Committee does not specify how best to include climate justice but it can be done very simply by adding in a sub-head 4.2(d) which states "the principle of climate justice". That phrase should also be added to the list of considerations in sub-head 5.10, as 5.10(l).

Trocaire have a live e-action to Enda Kenny on these points - we'd encourage you to take action now.

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