12 July 2021
Recent amendments to the Climate Bill have taken the “guts out” of the legislation, according to one of Ireland’s leading climate scientists.
A number of amendments were proposed and passed by the Government last Friday in the Seanad, including those which say the Government shall make regulations for determining how greenhouse gas emissions are taken into account and the manner in which they are calculated. Removals from land use will also be taken into account for these regulations.
The Climate Change Advisory Council, who will be responsible for setting five-year long carbon budgets, will now be required to comply with these aforementioned Government regulations when carrying out its functions, according to the latest amendments.
The Government shall also have “regard to” European Union rules on climate when making regulations, a term which campaginers and experts have repeatedly criticised.
The proposed changes are now set to go to the Dail this Wednesday evening and will either be rejected or accepted by TDs.
These amendments have “taken the guts out of the Climate Bill and destroyed the principles under which it was established,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientist Professor John Sweeney told The Green News.
“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.
“This undermines the scientific basis completely of any Climate Bill by putting it under the political control of a Government who are subject to pressures and lobby groups who seek to dismantle and render the Bill ineffective,” he added.
The Climate Change Advisory Council will also be “rendered toothless” by the amendment, according to Prof Sweeney, as their capability of using the best available science is “now also compromised hopelessly”.
Governments could “pick and choose emissions”
If accepted by the Dáil and signed into law, the Bill will see either this Government or future governments being able to “pick and choose which particular emissions and removals they want to count,” Prof Sweeney said.
“So we will have the ridiculous situation of a politically inspired calculation of emissions and reductions which will contrast with the scientific record,” he continued.
Independent climate researcher at Dublin City University (DCU) Paul Price warned that the amendments also present a danger of “creating loopholes that depend on the Government of the day’s particular attitude.”
The idea of offsets and removals as proposed in the amendments are also problematic because it deters mitigation, according to Mr. Price.
Campaigners had also criticised previous amendments earlier this month around carbon removals, arguing that it is “not a scientifically robust way to plan climate action.”
They did however welcome the removal of the proposed definition of climate justice in the Bill, arguing that it was better to have no definition of the term rather than using the Bill’s “current, misleading definition,” according to Friends of the Earth Ireland Director Oisin Coghlan.
Story by Kayle Crosson and Sam Starkey