Climate Bill remains “insufficient”, campaigners warn

14 May 2021 

The recently redrafted Climate Bill is still “insufficient”, according to Climate Case Ireland. 

The campaign who supported Friends of the Irish Environment’s landmark Supreme Court case win against the Government last year have penned an open letter to Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party and urged the Government to go further in the legislation to ensure that it “reflects science and climate justice”. 

The Bill recently passed its Second Stage and is now slated for Select Committee Stage. 

The open letter outlined a number of key issues the campaign would like to see addressed, including the ambition of emissions targets, climate justice and just transition, fracked gas, and legal accountability. 

The current goal of “climate neutrality” by 2050 enshrined in the Bill should be changed to “remaining below 1.5 C”, a target consistent with the goal of the international Paris climate agreement, according to Climate Case Ireland. 

The Bill as it stands “is not enough” and “hasn’t even faithfully delivered on this commitment,” according to Climate Case Ireland campaign coordinator Clodagh Daly.

“The science is clear – Ireland is set to enter into carbon debt as early as 2024. 

For younger generations and those at the frontline of this crisis around the world, the targets in this Bill are simply not commensurate with the scale of action required,” she said. 

In addition, the campaign is calling for the Climate Change Advisory Council to issue monthly reports on whether Ireland’s end-of-decade target ought to be raised and if the target for decarbonisation ought to be brought forward. 

Principles of a Just Transition and climate justice must be clearly defined in the Bill through an amendment and the Government and Minister must be required to act consistently with these concepts, the letter goes on to recommend. 

The campaign also backed a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA) recommendation to include a ban on imported fracked gas within the Bill. 

While it has a lower carbon dioxide output than other fossil fuels, fracked gas production presents an array of climate problems. 

Methane leaks out throughout the gas supply chain, and its estimated warming effect is 84 to 87 times greater than that of carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. 

Numerous studies have also linked its extraction to health issues and earth tremours. 

Earlier this year, the Human Rights Clinic at NUI Galway led by Dr. Maeve O’Rourke published a legal opinion that found a statutory prohibition on importing fracked gas is indeed compatible with international trade law. 

A ban on imported fracked gas would set Ireland on course to becoming a “global climate leader”, according to Johnny McElligott of Safety Before LNG. 

“A fracked gas import ban would demonstrate a willingness to tackle the world’s largest single super emitter of methane and one of the worst contributors to climate change,” he added. 

No “flexibility” should be needed 

Legal accountability in the Bill must also be substantially strengthened in order to provide transparency and accountability, Climate Case Ireland argue. 

Language such as “in the Minister’s opinion” and “in so far as is practicable” that is present throughout the Bill is “designed to provide wiggle room and to tell the courts ‘hands off’”, according to Dr. Andrew Jackson, who acted in Climate Case Ireland. 

“If the Government is committed to meeting the targets it is setting for itself, no ‘flexibility’ or loopholes or get-out clauses should be needed. 

The only course of action that will allay the concerns of those who would otherwise turn to the courts is steep and sustained reductions in emissions, in accordance with science and equity – starting now,” he said. 

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Kayle Crosson