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Friends of the Earth welcomes cross-party consensus on climate change legislation

13 Oct 2010

Oisin Coghlan, Liz McManus and Harry McGee

Oireachtas Committee publishes agreed Climate Change Bill

Friends of the Earth has welcomed the publication of a comprehensive Climate Change Bill by an Oireachtas Committee today. The environmental campaigning organisation described the move by the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security as a "timely demonstration of the cross-party consensus that exists on climate change legislation". Friends of the Earth regards a strong climate law as the cornerstone of a low-carbon, sustainable, economic recovery.

Commenting on the publication of the Bill, Friends of the Earth Director, Oisín Coghlan, said

"Today's demonstration of real and practical cross-party consensus on climate change legislation is welcome and timely. We hope the Government takes heed as it finalises it own Bill in the coming days. There could be no clearer signal to investors that Ireland is becoming a hub for green enterprise and innovation than a strong climate law enacted with the support of all parties in the Dáil"

Friends of the Earth is particularly keen that the Government follows the lead of this cross-party Bill and uses five-year carbon budgets to manage the reduction of Ireland's carbon emissions. The Programme for Government and the Framework Document agreed by Cabinet last December laid great emphasis on carbon budgets but, at the EPA climate change conference in June, Minister of State Ciaran Cuffe signalled a move away from budgets in the Heads of Bill then being drafted. Friends of the Earth is concerned this represents a dilution of the Programme for Government commitment in response to pushback from vested interests.

Mr Coghlan continued:

"A 2020 target for emissions simply isn't enough. Unless there's a legally-binding target for 2015 this Government and the next one can simply ignore the climate law. And a five-year carbon budget for 2011-2015 is the best way to reach that target. Just setting a target for 2015 doesn't say enough about how you will get there. A legally-binding five-year budget covering all emissions, as the UK climate law establishes, is much more effective. It doesn't just state your destination, it signposts the path to get there."

"The Government must reject the lobbying from those urging 'light-touch regulation' of our carbon emissions.The economic crash was caused by poorly-understood risk, complacency and weak regulation. We must not repeat those mistakes. There's no bailout that can rescue us if let climate change runs out of control," Mr Coghlan concluded.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security was established on foot of the coalition deal between the Green Party and Fianna Fail in 2007. Apart from the Public Accounts Committee it is the only Oireachtas Committee to have a Chairperson drawn from the Opposition parties. Minister Gormley has repeatedly stated his hope that the Committee would help in forging "an all-party approach on climate change" as the 2007 Programme for Government put it. Friends of the Earth believes the committee has taken its role in building cross-party consensus seriously, and the publication of today's Climate Change Bill is its strongest articulation yet. It is now up to the Government to build on that consensus by publishing its own, long-promised, Bill as soon as possible and seeking all-party support for it in the Oireachtas before the end of the year.

Read the Committee's own press release.

Read John Gormley and Ciaran Cuffe's response.

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