Close gap between rhetoric and climate inaction reality, State warned

Published by Niall Sargent on

December 10th, 2018

Ireland’s ranking as the worst in Europe for climate action points to a widening gap between State rhetoric and a genuine will to tackle climate change, Irish activists and NGOs have warned.

Speaking on the ground from the COP24 climate summit in Katowice, Poland, Irish delegates responded this morning to the release of the 2019 Climate Change Performance Index.

The Index ranks countries based on emissions levels, renewable energy take-up, energy use and climate policy, finding that Ireland is performing poorly across the board.

Time to wake up

Jennifer Higgins, Policy and Advocacy Advisor at Christian Aid Ireland, said that it was time for the Government to “wake up and listen” to this latest criticism.

The report’s release comes just days before Ireland’s new Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton TD prepares to address the UN climate summit in Poland.

Ms Higgins said that Mr Bruton and his Cabinet colleagues need to “remove their rose tinted glasses” and take on the “radical changes we need to see domestically” to tackle climate change.

“How many reports showing our shameful positioning in Europe will it take before the government starts implementing the real, ambitious and urgent change needed to tackle climate change.”

Also speaking from Poland, Clodagh Daly from the Climate Case Ireland (CCI) campaign said that the report shows that Mr Bruton must quickly close the gap “between his new rhetoric on climate change and reality of Ireland’s approach to climate action”.

“Minister Bruton has successfully raised expectations in recent weeks, but as yet he hasn’t taken actions that will actually lower our emissions,” she said.

The CCI campaign concerns a legal challenge brought by Friends of the Irish Environment against the State for alleged inaction on climate change.

The environmental group claims that the National Mitigation Plan (NMP) —one of the main planks in the Government’s climate change policy— does not do enough to reduce Ireland’s emissions and is a violation of the objections of the 2015 Climate Act.

Speaking at an event on climate litigation at COP24 last week, Ms Daly said that the Government is “sleepwalking” Irish citizens into an unrecognizable and highly dangerous future.

“Ireland has the third highest level of carbon emissions per capita in Europe, and they continue to increase,” Ms Daly said, with the government “failing to even come close” to hitting its EU targets.

Last week, new data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that our emissions dropped by less than one per cent in 2017, leaving us well off track to meet our 2020 climate targets.

Laggard or leader

Due to our increased renewable energy share for electricity generation and forthcoming support for renewable heat, Ireland is rated medium in the renewables category of the Index.

The report also commended the Dail for its “leadership” in passing the world’s first ever Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill brought forward by the Independent Deputy Thomas Pringle.

Cliona Sharkey, Policy Adviser for Trócaire, said that the passage of the Bill through the Oireachtas this year was an “incredibly important moment”.

It demonstrated that our elected representatives accept that fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned if we are to deliver on the Paris Agreement targets, she said.

It’s clear, however, that further action is needed to move our country from “laggard to leader”, she said, including the passing of several climate Bills before the Oireachtas.

“This in all our interests, and given the devastating impacts of climate change on the poorest women and men in the world who are being hit hardest by a problem they have not caused, it is a basic question of respect and justice,” Ms Sharkey said.

The Index also calls the Citizens’ Assembly process “innovative” and praised Irish citizens for producing “far-reaching recommendations for climate action”.

Last November, the Assembly voted for recommendations such as the establishment of a carbon tax on agricultural emissions, the phasing out of peat subsidies and increased spending on sustainable public transport.

A special all-party Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action is currently considering the recommendations and feed ideas into the development of Ireland’s new National Energy and Climate Plan.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London