“Transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by the end of 2050.” In the context of the climate crisis now confronting the earth, this is the ONLY aspiration of the Government in the Climate Action Bill 2015. There are no targets beyond the 2020 carbon reduction targets imposed on us by Europe. The opportunity to lead the way towards a truly significant and morally just pathway to a carbon neutral future has been thrown away.
Where is the echo of the Taoiseach’s commitment in New York at the UN Climate Summit last September, “We will only succeed in tackling climate change if we adopt a sustainable and truly collective approach, one that is ambitious but fair, that is challenging but achievable”?
Where are his “long-term objectives for 2050 of an 80 per cent reduction across electricity, transport and built environment”?
Where is the promise “We will continue our efforts, for example through our Origin Green Programme, to drive carbon efficiency and shape the international approach to sustainable agriculture and food production”?
This Government has failed to show commitment, imagination or leadership in the drafting of this Bill. Instead, they have kicked to touch, ensuring that no hard decisions on climate change or carbon emissions will be taken before the next election. Even after that, all that is proposed is the setting up of an Expert Advisory Council with the task of putting forward a Mitigation Plan and an Adaptation Plan in two years, bringing us post 2017 before the public can even consider their proposals or make submissions.
Has anyone in Government even considered that such Plans must undergo Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) and conform to the Aarhus Convention on public participation in decision-making? Is there no appreciation of the fact that business cannot go on as usual? How long in reality will it take to make tough decisions if no vision is put forward, no ambitious and exciting targets are proposed, no concept of climate justice is even mentioned?
The Government has missed a chance of rallying the Irish people around the cry of the earth in trouble. Instead they give us Expert Advisory Councils manned by the usual suspects; they give us Plans; they give us “Transition Statements”. We want action! Only yesterday, a leading climate scientist, Michael Mann said, “Ireland should make a bold statement to the world to show it is possible to thrive economically while making deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.”
Does this Climate Action Bill make a “bold statement”? No, it does not!