15 October 2020
The need for interim targets in the Climate Bill is “absolutely vital”, the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action heard today.
Dr Áine Ryall of University College Cork told the Committee on their second day of pre-legislative scrutiny that the inclusion of clear targets prior to 2050 was “fundamental” to ensure ongoing accountability on climate.
The current text of the Bill says the State will “pursue” a 2050 target of climate neutrality, but has no reference to any clear goals before then.
At the first pre-legislative meeting on the Bill, Independent Senator Alice-Mary Higgins said the absence of an interim target seemed to be “legislatively inconsistent” with previous climate agreements Ireland had made.
Mr Carroll defended the decision and said based on legal advice the Department received, “it was very clear where you have an existing legal obligation imposed on you under EU law, it’s not appropriate to further put the same obligation in national law”.
However, Dr. Diarmuid Torney of Dublin City University told the Committee this morning that five-year carbon budgets could be made to be consistent with EU targets.
Ensuring ambiguity is “ironed out”
Multiple members of the Committee have also raised issue and also with the weakness of the word “pursue” in relation to the 2050 targer rather than previous documents that opted for “pursue and achieve”.
Having only to “pursue” the target will not guarantee it is met, critics have argued.
Ambiguous language also takes form in the repeated use of the words “may” and “have regard to”, both of which appear 43 and 10 times respectively.
Dr. Ryall advised the Committee to consider such phrases closely “with a view to strengthening them where appropriate” and that this would “ensure ambiguity is ironed out and eliminated at an early stage”.
Failing to do so will “store up uncertainty” and “inevitably lead to litigation”, she added.
The need for an independent Climate Change Advisory Council
Dr. Ryall also stressed that it is “essential” that the role of the Climate Change Advisory Council is strengthened and “that its oversight is developed further in ensuring that it has the wide range of expertise it needs to deliver its mandate”.
“And of course it must have the resources to do that properly and to do it in a timely fashion”, Dr Ryall added.
During yesterday’s meeting Senator Lynn Boylan had expressed her concern at the possibility of the voice of climate science being drowned out on the Council if there was a one person, one vote policy.
If this was the system used, it could allow for other areas to override the views of climate scientists before the advice finds its way to the Government and carbon budget setting.