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Climate Bill's passage into law is end of marathon and start of sprint

15 Jul 2021

Climate Bill's imminent passage into law signals the end of a marathon campaign begun by Friends of the Earth in 2007. The race to eliminate our pollution emissions must now begin.

Friends of the Earth has said final Dáil vote on the Climate Action Bill this evening (14th July) will be a landmark moment for Irish climate policy and for public administration in Ireland, describing it as “the end of a marathon and the start of a sprint” [1]. After the final Dáil and Seanad votes the Bill will go to President Higgins to be signed into law.

Commenting on the imminent passage of the Bill, Friends of the Earth Director, Oisín Coghlan said:

“This is the end of a marathon and the start of a sprint. The end of a marathon campaign that Friends of the Earth began in 2007 and the start of the race of a lifetime to eliminate our polluting emissions fast enough to prevent complete climate breakdown and fairly enough to leave no one behind."

“This law isn’t perfect but no climate law would guarantee success. No climate law would automatically reduce pollution. The law sets the rules of the game but it can’t determine the outcome. We still have to campaign for every progressive policy change, vested interests will still resist disruption to business-as-usual, elements within the civil service will still drag their heels and parts of the media still don’t get climate risk.”

“But the climate law has levelled the playing field between those of us pushing for climate action in the public interest and those resisting action on behalf of vested interests."

“It enshrines radical reform in how climate policy is made and implemented, along the lines Friends of the Earth has been campaigning for for 14 years. It puts our long-term policy goal into law and gives legal underpinning to the short-term targets in the Programme for Government. It ensures climate policy will be decided in public based on independent expert advice, with a strengthened role for the Climate Advisory Council, whose membership is broadened and deepened. It means that our 5-year targets have to be voted on by the Dáil and Seanad, based on proposals from the Climate Council. It obliges ministers to produce Action Plans that are in line with our targets and sets up a system of robust parliamentary accountability based on reports from the Climate Council."“I can’t think of any other area of policy where government action is so tightly prescribed and monitored by law. The closest analogy is fiscal policy where EU rules, the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the Fiscal Advisory Council and the Public Accounts Committee create a similar policy architecture."

“I think those who are disappointed with the final Bill or who wish for more risk forgetting how unusual it is for any political and administrative system to accept such legal mandates and constraints, and what a significant achievement it is that our collective campaigning has produced this result. We can debate whether this is the equivalent of civil partnership or marriage equality but one thing we know for sure: the campaigning doesn’t end here, the work for faster and fairer climate action just enters a new phase, with a wider and more diverse movement behind it than ever before."

“Is the final Bill written exactly the way I would write it? No. Does it contain every provision I would ideally want? No. But then I didn’t have to negotiate it with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. It’s worth remembering that after four years of campaigning Fianna Fáil support for a strong climate law ago crumbled within weeks 10 years ago in the face of pushback from vested interests. And then Fine Gael simply refused to produce a strong climate law; four years of campaigning produced the 2015 Climate Act with no targets at all in law. What’s changed over the last four years of campaigning since the Citizens Assembly is the emergence of a political consensus on the imperative to act and the recognition that a strong law can help that."

“This Bill does a decent job of translating the current level of political consensus around climate action into an enduring legal framework of government policy making and public and parliamentary accountability. As campaigners we bank it, celebrate, and move on to use the law as a lever to drive the climate action we need and a platform from which to build the next level of political consensus on the scale and urgency of the action we need.”

 

ENDS

 

Notes

  1. Proceedings on the Climate Bill will start at 6.30pm in the Dáil this evening, 14th July, – see the Dáil schedule at https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/dail-schedule/?selecteddate=2021-07-14

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