Photo: Office of the President

Climate Action Bill signed into law

23 July 2021

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2021 has been signed by President Michael D. Higgins and has become law.

“Today is a landmark day, as we turn climate ambition into law, and set out on a journey to net zero emissions” said Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan.

As the Bill was signed into law many celebrated, noting the “momentous” and “historic” nature of this legislation.  

“Now the real work begins,” Friends of the Earth Ireland Director Oisín Coghlan said.

Following its passing, the Government will now set out regulations in carbon accounting, followed by the production of carbon budgets. These will be determined in consultation with the Climate Change Advisory Council.

The move marks a “big day for Ireland” according to longstanding climate activist Lorna Gold.

The #ClimateBill is certainly not perfect, but we need to recognise the huge improvement on what preceded it,” she said on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/gold_lgold/status/1418516435681349635

This Bill comes into law as the effects of climate change are being felt around the globe.

“In a week where weather events have dominated conversations across the globe this moment feels more important than ever,” tweeted Dublin Fingal TD Joe O’Brien.

Previous criticism

As it passed through the Oireachtas for one final time, the Bill raised concerns after last-minute amendments were added.

Campaigners, politicians and scientists were concerned that the bill was weakened after leading Climate Scientist Professor John Sweeney claimed these recent amendments ‘gutted’ the bill.

“They depart from the scientifically established methodology and give discretion to the Government to decide what to measure, how to measure it, and what the removals will be and how they are counted,” according to Prof Sweeney. 

An Taisce Climate Committee member Professor Barry McMullin added that the, “these last minute amendments were hasty, ill-considered and risk seriously undermining the scientific integrity of Irish climate action.”

Minister Ryan introduced an amendment prior to the final debates to bring section 6A under 3.3, to address these concerns.

Independent Senator Alice-Mary Higgins welcomed this addition, however she still found several problems in the legislation. These included the limited liability clause, weak language, the fact that EU rules are to be regarded rather than something to be consistent with, and the tension for the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) created by these new amendments. 

The Bill has thus been weakened, according to Senator Higgins, who in addressing the Minister added that he “didn’t have to weaken the Bill to get support in the Dáil. But when you weakened the Bill, you lost support in the Dáil.” 

Previous amendments were also also criticised by campaigners earlier this month around carbon removals, arguing that it is “not a scientifically robust way to plan climate action.” 

Just a week after the Bill passed through both houses of the Oireachtas, Minister Ryan said, “the signal we are sending today is that now is the time for action.”

By Sam Starkey