Ireland: on its way to a low carbon future?
Currently working its way through the Irish legislative system is an Irish Climate Change Bill that has the potential to be one of the strongest of its kind in the world. The importance of such a bill cannot be understated, the sooner real change is cemented into law, the sooner Ireland can lead the way as a country devoted to curbing climate change. The Framework for the Climate Change Bill 2010 written by Minister John Gormley has already been released. With the Heads of Bill just around the corner the Irish Climate Change Bill of 2010 has the chance to be passed into law by the end of the year, just in time for the next UN Conference on Climate Change in Mexico in November.
The Irish Climate Bill represents real and definite change for Ireland. With its passing, the bill with elevate the climate change issue to a national priority and put Ireland’s international obligations into law. It will require an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and establish a Climate Change Committee to oversee the task of reaching such targets. The Carbon budget, which has been in place since 2007, will take on new roles of measuring the progress of the country. A 3% average annual reduction rate in greenhouse gasses will be implemented to make sure future targets are met.
The proposed Irish Climate Bill is similar to bills passed in Scotland and England. Yet weaknesses exist in the bill that could lead to it loosing effectiveness in the future. Loose targets like the 3% average reduction are by no means mandatory and can result in the big polluters neglecting to make reductions immediately by claiming they will make up for gaps in the future. There currently is no stated guideline on how the ambitious 80% reductions target will be met and it is the only target of its kind stated in the bill. What is needed are a set of baseline targets to be met, much like the UK Bill which dictates benchmark goals every ten years. The Carbon Budget is currently nothing more than a non-binding progress report, instead of a yearly binding cap on total emissions. The bill also needs to ensure that carbon offsetting and the purchasing of carbon credits is not part of the 3% annual reduction but that Ireland’s emissions reductions need to be actual reductions here in Ireland. We also asked that aid going to developing countries for climate change adaptation is not taken from the existing pool of Irish aid but that is was additional and sufficient.
It is important that these loopholes be closed as they represent a real problem to the climate bill’s effectiveness and could jeopardize the ability for the bill to grow and strengthen over time. Voice of Irish Concern for the Environment (VOICE) along with the other groups in the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition are working hard to put the pressure on the government to take action and strengthen the bill. On June the 2nd in Buswells Hotel in Dublin City centre individuals from all across the country, with the support of the members of SCC met their TDs (MPs) and voiced their concerns in person. This was a dynamic event where local constituents got to meet their local TDs and tell them directly how serious they are that the up coming climate bill is strong enough so it has lasting implications for big polluters as well as moves Ireland towards a sustainable future. The event was preceded by an e-action where constituents sent emails to their TDs and asked them to meet them on June 2nd. The day kicked off with a training session hosted by various speakers from Friends of the Earth Ireland, Trócaire and Oxfam. The training day was intended to help the constituents understand what the climate bill means for Ireland, its targets and objectives and its many shortfalls. Over 150 people and 86 members of the Parliament made it out on the day and 70 TDs signed a ‘Climate Commitment’ that showed their dedication to ensuring the Bill is loophole free. VOICE and the Stop Climate Chaos coalition has kept the pressure up on the Irish government and eagerly awaits the Heads of Bill due in the next few weeks.
By VOICE volunteer Nick Chiumenti and VOICE campaigner Ciara Aucoin