Government is trying to run from the science – but it can’t hide from it, says An Taisce
26 Feb 2013
The employment growth in the green economy, so desperately needed, will not be happen with such a lame bill.
The Heads of the Climate Change Bill agreed at Cabinet today represent a gutless reaction to tackling Ireland's greenhouse emissions problem. The lack of targets means that this is a toothless bill.
On a per capita basis Ireland is one of the worst greenhouse gas emitters in the world and bears a responsibility, more than most, to address this.
Professor John Sweeney, President of An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland stated "After procrastinating for over a year by the expedient measure of commissioning the NESC Secretariat (not the full NESC Council) to deliver supportive recommendations, the proposals will completely lack substance or any significant effective steps to address the scale of the issues concerned."
He continued "A bill with no sectoral targets provides carte blanche for polluting sectors to continue without fear of sanctions. It is particularly disappointing to see such a non event of a bill emerge after both parties in government, together with all the opposition parties, endorsed an effective target-led bill a few short years ago. Today, even this ambition has been sacrificed to the lowest common political denominator of inaction worthy of an episode of 'Yes Minister'."
The cave-in by government ministers is indeed spectacular. While in opposition the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore had also a very different view of what a climate bill should contain:
"Both the Labour and the Green Party gave pre election commitments that carbon reduction targets would be statutorily based, in a climate change bill, similar to that being introduced by the Labour Government in the UK. If there is to be all-party agreement on the targets, then what is the apparent reluctance to the bill?"
Indeed! - what has removed the political backbone from this topic is not clear; but the current exercise reflects a carefully orchestrated downgrading of political priorities to suit the vested interests who have lobbied successfully for this toothless exercise.
At a time when those planning our transport, industry and agricultural futures need clarity on how much of the national emissions cake they can reasonably be expected to account for in future years, the government has abrogated its responsibilities in the area and left matters to the law of the jungle.
Economic recovery depends on sustainable policies to promote Ireland as a country with vision and leadership in this area. The employment growth in the green economy, so desperately needed, will not happen with such a lame bill.
Neither will our trading partners in the developing countries, on whom we impose adverse impacts by our polluting activities, be impressed by the pointed refusal of this government to sign up to the target an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Sadly, today's missed opportunity will result in uncertainties for those considering investing in Ireland and will cost jobs and damage Ireland's already fragile national image abroad.
James Nix, Director An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland stated "With this heads of bill, the government seems to be trying to run away from science. For better or worse science isn't something you can run away from: seeking to hide from the truth has never changed it."
"This draft legislation has yet to become a reasoned-out response to reality", he said adding that:
"We can have dynamic, world-beating agriculture in 2030 and 2050 while lowering emissions. The key point is that it will be different from today. It will have more home-grown cereals, horticulture and a greater diversity of crops than we see now. A hard truth is that a path of productivism, with an over-concentration on red-meat and dairy produce, is not sufficiently diverse or health aware to be a sustainable future for farm families and their successors. The change that we need in the complexion of our agri-food sector is a challenge that we can rise to meet".
An Taisce also noted that the concept of 'Transition' should not be omitted from the Bill and its title. "Transition" should go back in. We know we need to move from high to low levels of energy consumption (and resulting emissions). What we don't need is to develop a discrete number of new low-energy sectors on top of an unchanged general picture.