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Failure of Taoiseach and Tanaiste to speak at launch of sustainability plan a worrying sign

6 Jun 2012

Cover image for Our Sustainable Future Framework for Sustainable Development in Ireland

Dáil should debate "Our Sustainable Future" before Rio Earth Summit

Friends of the Earth has critcised the failure of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to speak at the launch of the Government's new sustainable development plan today. The landmark document deserves be debated in the Dáil before the Rio Earth summit later this month, according to the environmental organisation.

Commenting on the launch of the document, Oisín Coghlan, Friends of the Earth Director, said:

"Sustainability is not a 15 minute photocall. It means a transformation that will require real political leadership and the Taoiseach and Tánaiste failed that test at the first hurdle today when they had not one word to say between them at the launch. At the very least now we need a full Dáil debate before the Government presents the strategy at the Rio summit later this month".

Friends of the Earth welcomed the repeated statement in the document that "business-as-usual will not suffice" and the decision that implementation will be overseen by a Cabinet Committee chaired by the Taoiseach. However, that Government process needs to complemented by parliamentary accountability. There should be an annual report by the Taoiseach to the Oireachtas and an annual Dáil debate, as well as a role for an Oireachtas Committee to shadow the Cabinet Committee and hold ministers to account. That would constitute meaningful political reform.

The document acknowledges Ireland's poor track record on key sustainability indicators:

  • If everyone on Earth had levels of consumption like the Irish we would need three planet's worth of resources. Our overall ecological footprint is the 10th highest in the world. [page 31]
  • Ireland has one of the highest levels of Domestic Material Consumption per person in the world (this measures the levels of resources used by an economy, both extracted domestically and imported) [figure 6, page 30]
  • Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions are among the highest per person in the world [page 54]

Commenting, Oisín Coghlan, said

"The document highlights Ireland's poor track record in key areas. The oddest thing in the report therefore is the assertion in the Minister's foreward that Ireland made significant progress on sustainable development in the last 15 years. If there's one thing we can all agree on it's surely that what happened in Ireland over the last 15 years was not sustainable. And if the Government gets its historical analysis so wrong can be it be trusted to get its plan for the future right."


On climate change legislation - a key sustainability commitment in the Programme for Government - Our Sustainable Future gives Government backing to the Roadmap Minister Hogan published in January, which commits to publishing Heads of Bill in the fourth quarter of this year and passing final legislation in the fourth quarter of 2013.

1) The Government press release is online here.

2) Our Sustainable Future, A Framework for Sustainable Development for Ireland can be downloaded here

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