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Minister Hogan disregards key recommendations from Oireachtas Committee in revised Climate Bill

23 Apr 2014

Improvements are mostly minor and cosmetic

Dáil and Seanad must now strengthen Bill as it becomes law

Friends of the Earth has described the Government's proposed changes to the Climate Bill as mostly minor or cosmetic improvements. Minister Hogan has only acted on one and a bit of the the four key recommendations from the Oireachtas environment committee's all-party consensus report.

Commenting, Friends of the Earth Director, Oisin Coghlan said:

"Minister Hogan's changes amount to little more than lipstick on a pig. His draft Bill was weak and his proposed changes are mostly minor or cosmetic improvements. He has ignored the key recommendations of the all-party Oireachtas Committee report"


On the issue of Ireland's national objective for 2050
The Oireachtas Committee recommended that the Minister's own definition of low-carbon (see notes below) be included in the Bill as Ireland's national objective for 2050. It is not in the revised Bill published today.

On the issue of the independence of the Expert Advisory Body
The Oireachtas Committee recommended that the Expert Advisory Body be modelled directly on the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council to ensure its Independence. The Minister told the Committee he would "not be found wanting" in this regard, however:

  • The law establishing the Fiscal Council states clearly: "The Fiscal Council shall be independent in the performance of its functions". The draft Climate Bill has no such provision.
  • The Fiscal Council is made up simply of 5 independent members. The climate body will now have a majority of independent members but also 4 heads of state agencies who will have to look over their shoulders to their Boards and their constituencies.
  • The Fiscal Council is required to publish is reports within 10 days of giving them to the Minister, the climate body can't publish its reports until between 30 and 90 days after giving them to the minister, undermining transparency and public debate of climate policy.

On the issue of climate justice

The Oireachtas Committee recommended recognizing the principle of climate justice in the Bill. Today's draft Bill does not include climate justice as a principle to be considered as the Government draws up it's action plans.

On the issue of national and sectoral "Roadmaps"
The Oireachtas Committee recommended doing the national roadmap before the sectoral ones. The new draft simply does away with sectoral roadmaps and just has a national roadmap. This may improve coherence but it may also lose the requirement for public consultation on the sectoral inputs.
Oisin Coghlan commented

"Minister Hogan needs to explain his decisions. Why is the proposed climate advisory body so much weaker than the Fiscal Advisory Council?
"He has articulated a clear definition of what low carbon means by 2050. Why has he not included it in the Bill?
"The Government has made much of its commitment to climate justice in UN forums and co-hosting conferences with Mary Robinson. Why are they not willing to reflect that in the Bill?"


The draft Bill will next go to the Dáil and Seanad for debate, amendment and adoption.
Oisin Coghlann concluded

"It's now up to members of the Oireachtas, especially those who worked so hard to produce the all-party consens report, to strengthen this Bill as it passes through the Dáil and Seanad. Today's Bill is still better than last year's draft but it is still weaker than it needs to be. Thankfully, there is still time for our elected representatives to strengthen it in line with their own recommendations".

Notes 

  1. The draft Bill and accompanying documents are on the Department's website here:
    http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/Atmosphere/ClimateChange/NationalClimatePolicy/News/MainBody,37848,en.htm

  2. Speaking to the Committee last July Minister Hogan said his Department's working definition of low-carbon was "near-zero emissions in energy, transport and buildings and carbon neutrality in agriculture". The Committee recommended that definition be included in the Bill as Ireland's national objective for 2050. It's not in today's Bill at all. Instead, a weaker version, is merely included in an accompanying policy statement from the Minister.

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