Climate neutrality by 2050 legally binding in redrafted Climate Bill

23 March 2021 

A climate neutral Ireland by mid-century is legally binding in the newest draft of the Climate Bill.

The revised Bill was approved by Cabinet and published today, and according to the Department of Climate Action, provides the framework for Ireland to meet international and EU climate commitments. 

Alongside climate neutrality by 2050, the Bill also commits Ireland to pursuing and achieving a “climate-resilient, biodiversity-rich, and environmentally-sustainable economy” by mid-century. 

The Bill is now set to progress through the Oireachtas as priority legislation. 

An interim target of a 51 per cent reduction by the end of the decade will also be enshrined in law, a figure initially proposed in the Programme for Government.

Two five-year carbon budgets proposed by the newly appointed Climate Change Advisory Council should, according to the Department, “equate to a total reduction of 51 per cent over the period to 2030” relative to 2018 levels.

Carbon budgets, under the newly revised bill, must be consistent with the Paris agreement and other international obligations, and all greenhouse gas emissions, including biogenic methane, will fall under their remit. 

However, it is “up to Government” to decide on the trajectories for different sectors, according to the Department. 

“This is Ireland being green in practice, as well as in word,” according to Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan. 

“It changes how we see ourselves, it changes our sense of community. It will improve our health with more exercise and better diets. That’s what good climate action brings and that’s what this Bill is compelling our system to focus on,” Minister Ryan said.

A newly ramped-up Climate Action Plan is set to provide the pathway for this 51 per cent emissions reduction over the next decade upon publication this coming summer. 

The Bill underwent pre-legislative scrutiny before the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action late last year, and the Committee ended up submitting over 70 recommendations to Minister Ryan. 

The “vast majority” of these recommendations have been accepted, according to the Government. 

The Committee repeatedly heard in its pre-legislative scrutiny that a definition and reference to a Just Transition was fundamental and must be included as a mandatory element of the Bill. 

In the revised version of the Bill, Just Transition is something the Government “shall have regard to in so far as is practicable” in order to maximise employment opportunities and “support persons and communities that may be negatively affected by the transition”. 

Extinction Rebellion protest earlier today before the Dáil photo: Kayle Crosson

Absence of fracked gas ban a “massive missed opportunity” 

Another such recommendation that was not incorporated into the Bill was a ban on imported fracked gas. 

Prior to the Bill’s publication today, campaigners and protesters warned the Government not to “backtrack on its promise” to keep fracked gas imports out of Ireland’s energy usage. 

Members of Extinction Rebellion Ireland staged a protest before the gates of the Dáil this morning, urging the Government to ban imported liquified natural gas (LNG). However, such a ban was absent from the revised Bill. 

Placing a ban in the Bill would, “send a very clear signal about the direction of travel Ireland is taking in regard to its use of fossil fuels,” Sinn Fein climate justice spokesperson Senator Lynn Boylan said prior to its publication. 

Failing to do so, Senator Boylan warned, would be a “massive missed opportunity”. 

Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action Rapporteur on LNG Brid Smith of People Before Profit said that the reports of the new Climate Bill, “is merely a process of kicking our emissions reduction targets down the road.” 

“The whole purpose of the Greens going into government, we were told, was so they could make an impact on Ireland’s climate laggard status. This bill copper fastens our status as climate laggards is a work of spin,” Deputy Smith said. 

Addressing a question on imported LNG at today’s press conference regarding the Bill, Minister Ryan said the matter of imported LNG will be dealt with separately from the document.

“A big step in the right direction”

The Bill, according to Friends of the Earth Director Oisín Coghlan, is a big step “in the right direction.”

But today marks just the beginning and it is up to TDs and Senators to make sure the final law is as robust as possible, he stressed.

“Now the real work starts. The climate dialogues launched today are the chance for a national conversation about exactly how we cut our polluting emissions in half in a decade and grasp the opportunities for cleaner air, warmer homes, more liveable cities and green electricity,” he said.

About the Author

Kayle Crosson