The Government’s long overdue draft National Mitigation Plan is almost wholly inadequate to meet the climate challenges ahead, according to Ireland’s leading environmental organisations.
The Environmental Pillar, together with Stop Climate Chaos, has outlined its findings on the draft Plan in a submission sent as part of a public consultation set to close today.
The submission finds that the proposed approach requires fundamental changes and states that a new plan must be brought forward urgently.
Ireland may soon become the first state to divest from fossil fuels and join a small list of progressive nations to ban fracking, while the signing of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act in late 2015 was a positive step forward.
This progress is to be lauded; however, it will all be for nothing if we move forward with the current draft Plan as it largely fails to meet obligations set in the Climate Act,[i] the Paris Agreement [ii] and EU targets, and will leave us facing alarming emissions increases up to, and beyond, 2050.
While welcoming certain aspects of the draft, such as plans to prepare options for phasing out fossil fuels, the Plan fails to adequately address key emissions drivers, namely agriculture, energy production and transport.
There is no clear outline as to how and when objectives will be achieved to lead us into a carbon-neutral future. This contrasts sharply with recommendations from the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) to put a concrete policy framework in place to achieve 2020 and 2030 EU targets,[iii] and set a road map to reach Ireland’s self-declared 2050 national objective.
Unfortunately, the Government appears more interested in following the status quo, particularly in relation to agriculture as the draft Plan states that the economic importance of the agricultural sector must be balanced with reducing emissions.
Instead of focusing on this ‘cost-effective’ approach, the Government should instead take account of estimated long-term annual costs of between €80m and €800m to adapt to climate change impacts[iv] and potential fines of up to €6 billion for non-compliance with our 2020 and 2030 targets.[v]
The Government prefers to focus on the past, however, contending in the draft Plan that Ireland’s 2020 emissions target is “misinformed” and puts Ireland’s failure to meet its short-term targets down to “reduced investment capacity” during the economic crash.
While the recession did create some investment restrictions, the Pillar finds this argument to be disingenuous as there has been a complete failure in the post-recession era to develop policy measures to decouple resumed economic growth from increasing emissions.
It appears that the Government is trying to shirk responsibility by pointing to the past instead of moving ahead and developing clear policies to put Ireland on track to deal with the pressing issue of climate change into the future.
Environmental Pillar spokesperson, Charles Stanley-Smith said:
“Ireland cannot afford to adopt a wait-and-see climate policy approach, yet, the draft Plan clearly shows that the Government’s plan is to put off action and investment now and instead knowingly expose Irish society to financial penalties that could be equivalent to the levels of spending cuts during the years of the financial Bailout.
“The draft ignores climate science, underestimates long-term climate risks, and will only suffice to limit the national conversation on climate change by distracting attention away from Ireland’s climate responsibilities and the significant economic and human costs resulting from a failure to take action.
“It signals an absence of intent to honour commitments in the Paris Agreement, and a profound lack of solidarity and respect for the countries and communities for whom current climate impacts are already too much.
“Political and departmental leadership is urgently needed to shift the public and political discourse currently reflected in the draft Plan to one that enables energetic, ambitious and urgent climate action.
“Ireland is already facing the impact from increasingly unpredictable and intense weather events, with flooding, in particular, making a significant impact on homes and businesses in Ireland. We need concrete action now and unfortunately, this won’t happen with the Plan as it currently stands.
“The overall tone of the Plan is cautious, bordering on defeatist. The overwhelming message is that climate action is undesirable, costly and disruptive to our current national development plans.”
Environmental Pillar spokesperson, Oisin Coghlan said:
“After 6 years Enda Kenny’s Government has finally published a draft climate plan. But it’s so awful it’s embarrassing. If Minister Naughten’s draft climate plan was a fridge-freezer it would get an F-rating.
“It’s not really a plan at all; it reads like a discussion document. And it doesn’t actually adopt any new actions to reduce Ireland’s emissions.
“It focuses on cost of action and ignores the cost of inaction and the benefits – from job creation to warmer homes, to lower bills – of moving to a low-carbon future.
“Our political leaders are putting vested interests ahead of the public interest. And they are counting on the public not paying attention.
“Ireland’s emissions are actually rising when they need to drop by at least 5% a year for the next 30 years to meet our own national objective under the Climate Action Act 2015.
“The draft plan just gives up on meeting our 2020 targets and would see Ireland overshoot our 2030 target by 20%, incurring financial penalties of €3bn to €6bn.
“The Plan must be substantially redeveloped in order to set the agenda in terms of ambition, approach and methodology for climate policy planning going forward for this country.
“As a rich, developed nation, Ireland can neither morally nor politically justify ‘free- riding’ on the efforts of others.”
[i] The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act (2015) stipulates in Section 4(2) that the NMP must:
‘specify the manner in which it is proposed to achieve the national transition objective’,
‘specify the policy measures that… would be required… for furthering the achievement of the national transition objective’,
‘take into account any existing obligation of the State under the law of the European Union or any international agreement’, and;
‘specify the mitigation policy measures to be adopted by the Ministers of the Government…’.
[ii] According to calculations by the Climate Equity Calculator, a tool developed by the Stockholm Environment Institute to estimate the fair share effort for individual countries, Ireland must reduce all greenhouse gas emissions to zero within a decade to do its fair share of keeping global warming within the bare 2°C limit.
[iii] These recommendations were outlined in a recent communication to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, and in the CCAC’s first advisory report published in November 2016.
[iv] Environmental Protection Agency (2013) Co-ordination, Communication and Adaptation for Climate Change in Ireland: an integrated Approach (COCOADPT): https://goo.gl/FpZX2l
[v] The Institute of International and European Affairs (2016). ‘How much of Ireland’s “fiscal space” will climate inaction consume?’ https://goo.gl/6siWV9
Notes for Editor:
Copy of the joint submission available at this link: https://goo.gl/fyF33r
The joint submission outlines several actions and recommendations from the Environmental Pillar and Stop Climate Chaos, including:
Carbon Budget: set out an appropriate carbon budget and detailed objectives and policy measures for a minimum of five years. The final Plan should contain an overall carbon budget for the achievement of the National Transition Objective by 2050;
Decarbonisation: Shift policy away from fossil fuel dependence by transitioning Moneypoint away from coal and stopping peat firing at power stations;
Fossil Fuels Subsidies: Divest the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund of fossil fuel assets and phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies to meet our commitment under Article 2 of the Paris Climate Agreement;
Renewable Energy: Set a fair price for solar electricity supplied to the grid, and introduce policy to enable community-led projects, such as setting up a shared ownership scheme mandating developer-led projects to offer 20% of equity to local communities;
Transport: Re-balance existing funding away from road infrastructure and prioritise investment in walking, utility cycling and clean, sustainable public transport;
Agriculture: Encourage High Nature Value farming, incentivise low carbon farming and promote and support healthier and less ecologically damaging human diets;
Peatlands: Restore Ireland’s peatlands as a means of emissions reduction and carbon storage as an obvious measure which should be included in the final mitigation plan.
About the Environmental Pillar:
The Environmental Pillar is a national social partner, comprising 26 national environmental organisations. It works to promote the protection and enhancement of the environment, together with the creation of a viable economy and a just society, without compromising the viability of the planet on which we live for current and future generations of all species and ecosystems. For more information, please see our website.
About Stop Climate Chaos:
Stop Climate Chaos is a coalition of civil society organisations campaigning for climate action in Ireland. Members include BirdWatch Ireland, Christian Aid, Concern, Friends of the Earth, Gorta and Oxfam Ireland.