Gamekeeper and poacher: the two-faced nature of DCCAE

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January 21st, 2019

The Department of Climate Action and the Environment (DCCAE) has a popular nickname among environmental activists: the Department of Climate Inaction.

During this government’s tenure emissions have risen steadily, Ireland has been branded an international climate laggard, and DCCAE has produced a National Mitigation Plan so negligent that it is currently the subject of a legal challenge in the High Court set to kick off tomorrow.

The Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton need not despair, however. He can find comfort in the recent upsurge in activity in his Department’s busiest corner. Welcome to the Petroleum Affairs Division (PAD), the DCCAE’s little known but persistent Anti-Climate Action wing.

In 2018, the Division issued 12 petroleum exploration licences, an impressive figure considering the total number of currently active licences is 36. The PAD also clearly has a keen sense of irony as last Friday when Mr Bruton launched a consultation on his “all of government” climate plan, it was announced that PAD had issued yet another exploration licence to Providence Resources for a site in the Porcupine Basin off Ireland’s south-west coast.

“In DCCAE, we see a two-faced entity – outwardly exhorting citizens to “change their lifestyles” yet at its core, quietly, insidiously and unashamedly pro-fossil fuels.”

Our government has settled into increasingly comfortable rhetoric on what it calls climate action. This narrative promotes the idea that, as Richard Bruton declared last Friday, “[climate action] will only happen if every home, every enterprise, every farm and every community recognises that there’s change in their lifestyle”.

This is a simple and spineless message which allows the government to abdicate its responsibility for implementing critical but sometimes politically challenging climate policies and transfer responsibility for climate action to individual citizens.

When it comes to climate policy, some individuals’ actions may matter more than others. Documents released under Freedom of Information regulations revealed that last February Tony O’Reilly Jnr, CEO of Providence Resources wrote to then-Minister for Natural Resources, Sean Kyne, to express his “urgent” concern over the Climate Emergency Measures Bill to ban the issuing of new offshore exploration licences.

Fast forward to January 2019 and the government is now holding the Climate Emergency Measures Bill in procedural limbo. In DCCAE, we see a two-faced entity – outwardly exhorting citizens to “change their lifestyles” yet at its core, quietly, insidiously and unashamedly pro-fossil fuels.

Continued investment in geological research, pandering to the interests of the oil and gas men, and an extremely favourable tax regime is the extent of this administration’s climate action. Department of Climate Inaction? Department of Climate Chaos would be more accurate.

By Aideen O’Dochartaigh and David McMullin of Not Here Not Anywhere

Not Here Not Anywhere is a campaign group for a fossil free future in Ireland–

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