Campaigners concerned over Climate Bill delay

8 March 2021 

Campaigners have warned that the delay in publishing the landmark Climate Bill could signal a late effort to “water it down”.

Friends of the Earth Ireland said that any talk of the Bill appearing before St Patrick’s Day has stopped, despite the fact that Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan had previously said he expected the revised Bill would be approved by Cabinet by the end of February. 

The Bill was initially published in October and numerous amendments to it were proposed in December following the publication of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action’s recommendations. 

“I’m worried the delay in publishing the Climate Bill is an indication there is a push to water it down by some Fine Gael TDs,” Friends of the Earth Director Oisín Coghlan said. 

He noted that there is a certain “Climate Bill hesitancy” in some quarters of Fine Gael based on exchanges in public hearings of the Oireachtas Climate Committee and from meetings between local constituents. 

Fine Gael reluctance, according to Mr. Coghlan, is in relation to whether the Programme for Government figure of a 51 per cent emission reduction by 2030 should be directly reflected in the Bill, and on the Bill’s justiciability, which would allow for the Government being brought to court if they failed to adhere to it. 

The hesitancy to legislate the 51 per cent target is “puzzling”, he said. 

“They have already committed to it politically, it is now Government policy and is very close to what our final share of the EU’s 2030 target is likely to be. 

The only reason not to reflect that in the Climate Bill is if you don’t really intend to meet the target,” he said. 

On the issue of justiciability, Mr Coghlan warned that the Government were “misunderstanding the risks” as the Government was already brought to court under the existing climate law and lost its case last year in the Supreme Court. 

Campaigners from Climate Case Ireland mark their historic win Photo: Climate Case Ireland

“It would be foolish to pass a new law with a PS that says ‘by the way, you can’t take us to court if we break this law.’ That would fool nobody and satisfy nobody,” he said. 

The “best and indeed the only way” for the Government to avoid ending up in court over the coming years is to cut emissions in line with national and international obligations, according to Mr. Coghlan. 

“They should get on with it, rather than trying to get out of it,” he added. 

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Kayle Crosson