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Where is the Climate Bill?

8 Mar 2021

Concern that delay signals late push by Fine Gael to dilute the Bill

Friends of the Earth has expressed concern at the apparent delay in the publication of the Government’s flagship Climate Action Bill. Minister Ryan announced in early February that he expected the revised Bill to receive Cabinet approval before the end of February and preparations were in train for the Bill to be launched along with a major public consultation on how best to cut polluting emissions. Now any talk of the Bill appearing before St Patrick’s Day has stopped. Campaigners are concerned that the delay signals a late effort to water down the proposed law in light of comments by a number of Fine Gael TDs.

Read the 5 tests we set for the Climate Bill last October

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

"I’m worried the delay in publishing the Climate Bill is an indication there is a push to water it down by some Fine Gael TDs.

"The Oireachtas climate committee made clear, cross-party recommendations on how to strengthen the Bill just before Christmas. Minister Ryan told the media over a month ago that the Government would accept the ‘vast majority’ of the the committee’s recommendations, but some Fine Gael TDs have expressed reluctance.

"We know from the public hearings of the Oireachtas Climate Committee and from meetings between local constituents and their TDs that there is a certain ‘Climate Bill hesitancy’ in some quarters of Fine Gael.

Fine Gael representatives express reluctance on two issues. One is whether the Programme for Government commitment to cut climate-polluting emissions by 51% by 2030 should be directly reflected in the Climate Bill.

"Fine Gael hesitancy on 51% is puzzling. They have already committed to it politically, it is now Government policy and is very close to what our final share of the EU’s 2030 target is likely to be. The only reason not to reflect that in the Climate Bill is if you don’t really intend to meet the target!", Mr Coghlan added.

The other Fine Gael concern is with ‘justiciability’, that is what can the Government be brought to court over. Richard Bruton raised this during the Committee hearings.

"I think they are misunderstanding the risks here. The Government was already brought to court under the existing climate law and the state’s 2017 climate plan was quashed as inadequate by the Supreme Court", Mr Coghlan continued.

"It would be foolish to pass a new law with a PS that says 'by the way you can’t take us to court if we break this law'. That would fool nobody, and satisfy nobody. The best way, indeed the only way, for the Government to avoid ending up in court in the years ahead is to cut emissions in line with our national and international obligations. They should get on with it, rather than trying to get out of it.

"I hope the Climate Bill will be on the agenda of this week’s meeting of the three Government party leaders. It’s time for the three leaders to lead, agree to strengthen the Bill in line with the cross-party recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee, and finally get Ireland to the starting line in the global race to eliminate climate pollution."

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