The Government’s Climate Action Plan is a welcome step to strengthen Ireland’s response to this global crisis, but its success will hinge on how urgently it is implemented.
Every year of delay in taking essential measures has contributed to lives being lost. We see the disproportionate and devastating effects in the regions of the world where Trócaire works. The number of climate-related disasters such as heat, drought, floods and storms has doubled between 1990 and 2016.
In just one disaster this year, Cyclone Idai resulted in hundreds of deaths across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi and many thousands of people lost their homes. Ninety per cent of the city of Beira in Mozambique was left uninhabitable.
The Government must urgently bring forward legislation to give effect to the critical new climate-policy governance changes promised in the plan without delay.
There are commitments in this plan to introducing governance and accountability mechanisms that, if enacted swiftly and effectively, should avoid a repeat of the ‘implementation gap’ that saw previous plans and proposed measures delayed, diluted or abandoned.
These mechanisms – including five-year ‘Carbon Budgets’ which set out the total amount of emissions the State can emit - are the only meaningful way to bring planning and spending in line with climate targets.
Crucially, our national 2050 target will be explicitly enshrined in law for the first time. The plan also commits Ireland to support an EU-wide target of net zero emissions by 2050. We expect the Government to communicate this support unequivocally when it meets other EU member states in Council this Thursday.
It is also vital that the plan is implemented in a just manner. Society needs to undergo change but this change must be socially progressive. The poorest in the world have been hit hardest by the impacts of climate change, we must ensure that measures provide benefit not burden for the most vulnerable in society.
Furthermore, to deliver this plan, the Government must stop taking contradictory approaches.
At the same time as launching this plan, the Government is blocking a piece of legislation that would end fossil fuel exploration off the coast of Ireland. The Climate Emergency Measures Bill has the support of the majority of TDs but is being blocked by the Government.
It is hypocritical to present a climate action plan while at the same time blocking one of the most important pieces of legislation on the issue.
The Government’s credibility has been significantly undermined by its opposition to the Climate Emergency Measures Bill and by its efforts to block TDs even debating the Bill.
Ending exploration for fossil fuels is basic common sense. ‘Keep it in the Ground’ is more than a campaign slogan, it’s a scientific and moral imperative. The Government needs to let this Bill progress if it wants to claim genuine leadership.
The Government’s plan provides a path forward, but a plan by itself won’t solve the challenges we face. Its success or otherwise will be decided by what happens next.