Significant changes suggested for Climate change Bill

20 November 2013 14:45

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Committee on the Environment finds targets for Ireland will effectively be set by EU

The report of a parliamentary committee on a draft climate change Bill has made no recommendations over the controversial absence of 2050 targets for emissions reductions.

The Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, chaired by Labour TD Michael McCarthy, this morning issued its report following a nine-month scrutiny of the Outline Heads of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2013.

The committee received over 45 submissions and heard evidence from 30 individuals and groups during the course of its deliberations.

While the committee makes no cast-iron recommendations to Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, it does make a number of significant suggestions for legislative change.

It also suggests a number of actions that, if followed, differ from the draft legislation and from the document that formed its basis, a report from the Secretariat of the National Economic and Social Counsel which concluded the emphasis should not be on ‘how much’ emissions reduction, rather on ‘how to’ achieve a low carbon society.

In relation to the issue of targets, the committee said Ireland abiding by targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050 set by the EU Roadmap will “satisfy the objectives of the Bill”.

The Committee did suggest a number of significant changes. The first relates to sectoral roadmaps, the building-blocks envisaged for Ireland to achieve its low-carbon objectives.

It has concluded that a national roadmap is needed first and no sectoral roadmaps be drawn up until that is achieved.

It also recommends that intervals between national roadmaps be no greater than five years.

There is also a bigger emphasis on the Expert Advisory Body, with the committee’s language suggesting there should be an insistence on full independence, regular and robust reporting mechanism, as well as an operation and structural model based on the composition of the Fiscal Advisory Council.

The committee also gives strong backing to the case that has been made by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney that Ireland’s agricultural situation is unusual in Europe and the current requirements for emissions reduction in that sector are disproportionate, unjust, unfair and make little sense.

The report supports rain-fed and grass-based agriculture as opposed to less sustainable forms and recommends the creation of a Europe-wide agriculture emissions trading scheme, which would award efficient and sustainable Irish agricultural practices.

It puts the emphasis on carbon-neutrality in agriculture by 2050 with a bigger focus on the use of carbon sinks from forestry and other land-use change initiatives.

Mr McCarthy emphasised the non-partisan approach of the committee members and accepted there were different views from TDs and Senators from Government and opposition.

He said it was more useful to produce a document without recommendations but with consensus views in relation to courses of action and reference to where there were divisions.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy described the outcome as the best that could be hoped for: “Ideally we wanted to see targets. The [setting of 2030 targets for the EU] in 2015 will change the scenario”.

“We will have to scrutinise what is in those plans. If we do not have practical measures it is going to run into serious difficulties.”

While the report has been broadly welcomed with the IFA and IBEC noting its inclusive nature.

Stop Climate Chaos, which represents 28 civil society organisations, said the committee had missed an opportunity by not suggesting specific carbon emissions reduction targets should be set for 2050.

While welcoming the strengthening of the independent advisory body its spokesman Oisin Coghlan said “one disappointing aspect of the report is that it falls shy of proposing that specific carbon emissions reductions targets should be set for 2050”.


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