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Climate change

Irish Climate Bill: You asked, they listened!

Climate Change Bill Lobby Event Buswells Hotel

Caption: clockwise from top left Paul Connaughton, Galway East TD, Fine Gael; Eoghan Murphy, Dublin South East TD,  Fine Gael; Mick Wallace, Wexford TD, Independent; and Mary Lou McDonald, Dublin Central TD, Sinn Fein, were among the many TDs who attended the Climate Bill lobbying session in Buswell’s Hotel, Dublin on Tuesday 10 February. Photos: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

On Tuesday 10th February, Trócaire, together with Stop Climate Chaos organised a hugely successful mass lobby event on Ireland’s Climate Bill. This event was organised to pressure our politicians to pass a much stronger bill than currently exists.
Thanks to people from all over the country who contacted their politicians, over 90 TDs attended the event throughout the day, which was an amazing turnout. TDs from both the Government and opposition came thanks to the numerous emails, tweets and phone calls they received from constituents like you!
The debate in the Dail last week showed a cross-party awareness of the need to strengthen the bill;  TDs have voiced their concerns about  its weakness in its current form, repeating the need for emission targets, a fully independent advisory council, the need to define what ‘low carbon’ means and a stronger commitment to climate justice for developing countries.

What TDs have been saying about the Climate Bill

‘I hope the Minister will approach the legislation in the proper spirit as we approach Committee Stage because if we look back to the report of the Oireachtas committee we see that most of what it recommended was not reflected in the legislation. One does not have to agree with everything a Committee says, but if one does not listen to it, that begs the question of why we have such committees and why they do the work they do. It is important as we amend the Bill on Committee Stage that we try to find a better balance between what the Oireachtas Committee recommended and what the Government wants, because that is the whole purpose of the system we have… 
There is no definition of low carbon in the Bill, which is incredible when one thinks about it. We have a definition of low carbon and the Bill is about low carbon so the Bill should contain a definition…
There is also no concept of climate justice in the Bill, which is remarkable, as one cannot talk about the subject without talking about climate justice. It is an important concept but it is a difficult thing to achieve. However, we will not get anywhere near achieving it if we are not even talking about it in primary legislation such as this.’
– Eoghan Murphy, Dublin South East TD, Fine Gael
‘In the programme there was a commitment to “publish a Climate Change Bill which will provide certainty surrounding government policy and provide a clear pathway for emissions reductions”, yet this Bill does not provide any certainty to me or to the people I met who visited this House to give an excellent briefing. They were from the 28 organisations that combined to form Stop Climate Chaos and were in Buswells Hotel last Tuesday. The Bill does not answer our concerns and it does not provide a clear pathway to the sectors that need to start making changes to how they plan and operate.’
– Tommy Broughan, Dublin North East TD, Independent
‘Climate change is a serious threat to this island nation across a broad remit of areas from agriculture to infrastructure, including the threat of massive coastal erosion. The Bill does not confront the scale of that threat. The input from the exhaustive hearings of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Community and Local Government and its subsequent consensus recommendations have effectively been ignored by the Government, contrary to what the Minister has said.
…the failure to include specific 2050 targets will give rise to sectoral interests potentially hijacking the process and depriving the Bill of its long-term impact in shaping policy formation. In other words, as a result, the Bill is effectively toothless.’
– Barry Cowen, Laois-Offaly TD, Fianna Fail
‘With the timelines as set out currently we will get a plan but it will be too long in the making. Another issue we must address is the view that this country is so small that it does not really matter what we do in the wider world. The United States of America and China make deals with each other and the belief is that if they are doing something then it will solve matters for the rest of us.
That is hardly a positive way to view this problem. We have to do our bit. I agree with the need for climate justice. As a developed country we must do more for those countries in much more dire situations.’
– Paul Connaughton, Galway East TD, Fine Gael
‘…the UK, Scotland, France, Denmark, Sweden and Finland have one thing in common. They have adopted legislation which is much stronger than that with which we are presented. They also have targets set in domestic law. Unfortunately and critically, this legislation does not contain these targets. For legislation which has the support of politicians across the spectrum, it is amazing that narrow sectoral concerns seem to have had more impact in the framing of this legislation. I hope this can be changed on Committee Stage. It is an indictment of Parliament that, over the past ten years, we have failed to respond to one of the biggest challenges of our times.’
– Catherine Murphy, Kildare North TD, Independent
‘The Bill is not adequate in terms of following on from the action plan on climate change which ended in 2012. It had specific targets based on the Kyoto Protocol. There is no excuse, particularly in light of the fact that the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, with which I and other Members are involved, had all-party support when setting out its proposals in a report in 2013.
The committee report refers to the concept of climate justice. We must recognise that there is not a level playing field. Trócaire and others have stressed the inequalities that exist on a global scale and the fact that people in developing countries suffer greatly from the impact of dramatic climate change. A women from the Philippines was here yesterday. It is a country made up of islands and we have seen television images of what those people have suffered as a result of climate change. One could not be left unmoved by what is happening to people in the Pacific Ocean, particularly those who live on small islands. We have an obligation to those people, as we are producing far more greenhouse gases per head of population than they are. Over recent decades we have seen the consequences of drought and disaster caused by extreme events in the Philippines and other countries. The impact of such events is greatly exacerbated by the fact that these underdeveloped countries do not have the infrastructure to cope with such disasters. Poorer-quality housing and physical infrastructure means that the consequences of hurricanes and typhoons, for example, are far greater than they are in developed countries. The emergency and relief services are not as well able to cope with those consequences and the impact on local people.
What we have been presented with instead is an expanded heads of a Bill which puts everything on the very long finger and commits this State to do little. There will possibly be penguins washed up in Dollymount before we have this process completed.’
– Brian Stanley, Laois-Offaly TD, Sinn Fein
‘Our carbon reduction targets should be explicitly stated in time stages to enable us and the world to calculate whether we are moving in the right direction. Sometimes we can get legislation wrong, but the consequences in those cases are not too severe or they can be undone. However, if we get this wrong – the legislation or the enforcement – there will be no second chance.’
– Michael Colreavy, Sligo North TD, Sinn Fein
‘I attended a briefing that was held by Stop Climate Chaos yesterday. I suggest the Minister would have attended it last year before he was put in the position he is in now, or even before he was elected. The organisers of the briefing, who have been very involved in some of the most serious examination of climate change for the future, are saying clearly that this Bill is very disappointing. A fourth class group of ten year olds from Griffeen Valley Educate Together national school who attended yesterday’s event asked why no targets have been set in this legislation. They could not understand why no targets have been set. When people of that age are asking such questions, it shows they have significant concerns about their future. The Minister has an obligation to provide a specific reason. I do not think the explanation he provided in his introductory remarks was good enough. We should set targets for our greenhouse emissions.’
– Joan Collins, Dublin South Central TD, United Left
‘Here we are discussing a Climate Bill that does not promise any plan until 2017 and no progress report until 2023, fails to set an emission reduction target for 2050, does not commit to a definition of “low-carbon economy”, refuses to make the expert advisory council fully independent and fails to recognise the importance of the principle of climate justice.
In Ireland, we emit more greenhouse gases than the poorest 400 million people living on the planet put together. As noted by Stop Climate Chaos, Ireland is emitting 17 tonnes of greenhouse gases per person per year. This makes us the second worst polluter in the EU, where the average is 11 tonnes. We need to recognise that we are not innocent, that we have benefited at the expense of others and that it is time to do our part to redress the balance.’
– Mick Wallace, Wexford TD, Independent
‘…the question must be asked as to why no explicit mitigation targets are contained in the Bill. The Department’s position appears to be that setting targets within the Bill could at some stage interfere with the legally binding targets set by EU legislation. Perhaps the Minister will indicate why he believes this to be the case.
Given that this is the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill, I am obliged to ask whether it would not be reasonable to include a definition within its provisions of what constitutes “low carbon”? The inclusion of such a definition could provide extra clarity and contextualisation to the provisions and aims of this legislation. A further concern, which has just been outlined by the previous speaker and which has been brought to my attention on numerous occasions, relates to why the Bill does not explicitly state that the expert advisory council will be fully independent.
A national and transition mitigation plan is required to be developed by the Minister “no later than 24 months after the passing of this Act”. In light of the importance of taking action to tackle climate change, should the development of this plan not take place in a more appropriate timeframe? I raise this issue because there are EU targets which we are obliged to meet by 2020 but under this provision, the national mitigation plan may not actually be in place until 2017. I do not believe this provides the State with sufficient time in which to take action.’
– Alan Farrell, Dublin North TD, Fine Gael
‘This Bill is really quite pathetically weak in dealing with the most serious of crises, the climate crisis, and all the dangers it poses nationally and globally.
As has been stated, Ireland has one of the highest per capita emissions rates in Europe. It is ranked fourth highest. The potential cost to Ireland of runaway climate change is more severe than for most countries in Europe. The Joint Research Centre’s recent report on climate impacts in Europe details the enormous costs already incurred in Ireland owing to events such as flooding. Some €750 million has been paid out by insurers since 2000. This indicates, based on the current trajectory, that the costs, which are really quite astronomical right across Europe, are set to increase massively. The cost of addressing sea flooding in Britain and Ireland is predicted to increase from €996 million to €3 billion over the next few years. Already, the direct economic cost of the damage from flooding across Europe is €5 billion. It is expected to be €11 billion in future years. The report states Ireland and Britain will be the worst affected, obviously because they are islands on the west of Europe and have particular climatic conditions.’
– Richard Boyd Barrett,  Dun Laoghaire TD, People Before Profit Alliance


‘I wish to be positively encouraging in bringing this Bill forward. I also wish to make it more robust. It is a little limp at present due to the lack of definitions, targets and in respect of climate justice. It ought to be strengthened and made more robust in those three areas. We should not be afraid. Otherwise, the Minister is introducing a limp Bill that does nothing.’

– Peter Matthews, Dublin South TD, Independent

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