Joint Committee publish recommendations to strengthen Climate Bill

18 December 2020 

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action has published their recommendations to substantially strengthen the Climate Bill across the board following weeks of expert testimony. 

Totalling at 78 amendments, the cross-party Committee is calling for numerous actions, including the banning of imported fracked gas, adaptation measures, stronger language and greater accountability. 

The State shall both pursue and achieve climate neutrality by 2050 “at the latest”, their report reads, reflecting consistent criticism the Committee heard regarding the weak language throughout the Bill.

The transition to such neutrality must be “achieved through a transition to a climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy” while protecting biodiversity, they added. 

The report also recommends strengthening language around the long list of criteria of what the government should consider in climate policy, specifically by naming Sustainable Development Goals, the National Biodiversity Strategy, nature-based solutions and public health as items that must be taken into account. 

Ministers in each Department should also be required to ensure five year carbon budgets are met. 

If they fail to meet them, consequences must be “clearer and more well-defined”, and there should be a legal obligation to course-correct and compensate as soon as possible, the report concludes. 

The document also stressed that the Climate Change Advisory Council should be independent and be gender balanced. 

Interim targets 

The Committee is also recommending the inclusion of interim targets to ensure the 2050 transition objective is met, another point frequently raised in pre-legislative hearings. 

Specifically, the report recommends that the 51 per cent reduction target for 2030, as outlined in the Programme for Government, be set into law through this Bill. 

Additionally, the report calls for the inclusion of agricultural methane in five-year carbon budgets, rather than a suggested set of split targets. 

If a separate target for the potent greenhouse gas is proposed for such budgets, a clear target for its reduction must be set out, as in the New Zealand Carbon Act, the Committee said. 

Just Transition and climate justice 

The Bill in its current draft notably has no reference to a Just Transition, and the Committee have called for its definition to be included and that it should be considered in policy-making. 

Similarly, climate justice should also be defined in the bill, and reparations for loss and damage caused by Irish emissions should be considered either in the Bill itself or in government policy. 

A public involvement strategy should be devised and published no later than the year-end 2021 and also recommended that the Bill is “checked for compliance” with the rights set out in the Aarhus Convention, according to the Committee.

They also are calling for all aspects of climate policy across the State providing evidence of how biodiversity plans were incorporated. 

“Unprecedented mandate” 

The report gives an “unprecedented mandate” for the Government to strengthen the Bill, according to Climate Case Ireland. 

The campaign that successfully won its case against the Government in July also stressed that the Bill must go significantly further if it is to create legislation that fully aligns with science and climate justice. 

“A goal of climate neutrality by 2050 ‘at the latest’ is nowhere close to the scale or pace of action required to meaningfully respond to the climate and biodiversity crisis. 

There is no time left business as usual, and it is a shame that this view was not shared by the majority on the Committee. Complete decarbonisation by 2030 is the only science and climate justice aligned proposal on the table,” Climate Case Ireland Campaign Coordinator Clodagh Daly said. 

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Kayle Crosson