Ireland’s two-faced game on climate change in the spotlight as EU Environment Ministers meet

As Minister Naughten meets with other Environment Ministers today (13th October 2017) to discuss key EU climate change legislation, the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition has called the Government’s approach to EU negotiations shameful and hypocritical. Ireland has pushed for the inclusion of several loopholes in proposed legislation concerning reductions in polluting emissions to be made by EU Member States between 2021 and 2030. Staggeringly these weak provisions as currently proposed would see Ireland’s required efforts going from a 10% additional reduction in emissions to just 1%. This embarrassing result has been noted by experts in Brussels, serving to further damage Ireland’s reputation.

The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition has written to Minister Naughten this week to express their alarm at Ireland’s approach and has highlighted a range of risks at both Irish and EU-level associated with the inclusion of such loopholes.

Professor John Sweeney of Maynooth University commented:

The Government’s focus on loopholes to avoid actual emissions cuts will only increase Ireland’s overall 2050 mitigation challenge, as well as drive up the financial, political and social costs of severe climate impacts and persistent non-compliance. The text as it currently stands will also be a missed opportunity for Ireland to reap the many co-benefits of reduced emissions, such as improved soil, lower health costs and enhanced air quality.”

Jennifer Higgins, policy and advocacy advisor at Christian Aid Ireland, commented:

The Government’s efforts to water down this climate legislation flies in the face of its international climate obligations. Ireland’s strong support for a weak EU climate law sits in stark contrast to the Taoiseach’s commitment to tackle climate change through the Paris Agreement. The Government’s strong lobby for loopholes and concessions, which would allow it to avoid action, reveals the hypocrisy of talk at home of becoming ‘a leader in tackling climate change’.

The 2015 Paris Agreement marked a major step in global efforts to tackle climate change, committing countries to urgently and drastically reduce polluting emissions. In July this year, the Taoiseach stated that ‘Ireland is committed to concerted multilateral action to tackle climate change through the Paris Agreement…’ A key part of this multilateral action is cooperation at EU-level in order to translate the Paris Agreement commitments into policies at home. Environment Ministers are expected to agree their position on one of the EU’s main tools for climate action between 2021 and 2030, the Effort Sharing Regulation, which sets targets for Member States to reduce pollution from transport, waste, agriculture, buildings and small industry.

However, Ireland is continuing to play a deeply two-faced game on climate change in the negotiation of this proposed legislation. Despite efforts by Germany to save the weak text, Ireland is shamefully pushing for the inclusion of a series of accounting tricks and loopholes that would see not only Ireland but the entire EU reduce their efforts.

Friday’s EU Council meeting is an opportunity to bring the proposed climate law into line with our Paris Agreement commitments and is the last chance for Minister Naughten to reverse Ireland’s damaging, hypocritical approach.

Notes

1.Stop Climate Chaos is the civil society coalition campaigning for Ireland to do its fair share to tackle climate change. Our 33 members include overseas aid and development, environmental, youth and faith-based organisations.

2. At the Environment Council on the 13th of October, Ministers will discuss the text of the proposed Effort Sharing Regulation and the Regulation on Land-Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry ‘with a view to agreeing on a general approach for each of the files.’ See http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/env/2017/10/13/

3.The EU Effort Sharing Regulation sets binding annual emission reduction targets for Member States for the period 2021–2030. These targets address emissions from transport, waste, agriculture, buildings and small industry (the ‘non-ETS sector’), covering more than a half of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Regulation also addresses related accounting and monitoring rules for these targets.

4.The overall EU-wide target to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels and the national targets are not in line with the temperature objectives of the Paris Agreement.

5.The proposed text includes a number of fundamental weaknesses which permit delayed or reduced emission reductions. This includes the following loopholes:

– An incorrect starting point (for Member States emission reduction efforts over the period 2021 to 2030), which fails to reflect actual emission levels.

– The ability to carry-over unused pollution permits from the period to 2020 to the period 2021 to 2030 (called an “early action reserve” )

– A lenient approach to the use of credits for emissions contained or taken in by land (e.g. from forestry). See the proposed Regulation on Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry which is also under negotiation.

– The use of surplus emissions allowances from the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme for Ireland and eight other Member States.

6. Ireland’s target for 2020 is to reduce non-ETS emissions by 20%. Our headline reduction target for 2030 is 30%. If all of the proposed loopholes are factored in, Ireland’s effective reduction target for 2030 would be just 21%, giving Ireland a decade to move one percentage point beyond our 2020 target. For further information on these calculations and projections is available here and here.

7. The German government has proposed to use the 2020 targets as a starting point for those Member States that are expected to miss their 2020 targets (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland and Luxembourg, according to European Environment Agency’s 2016 “Trends and projections” report). This would save around 100 MT CO2 emissions and ensure that laggards cannot avoid meeting their binding targets but the proposal is opposed by Ireland. See CAN Europe’s latest press release,

8. See also Can Europe’s op-ed on the state of the play of the Effort Sharing Regulation negotiations, and Infographic: “No cheating from the start”, which shows that a misguided starting point for the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) would increase EU emissions by 500M+ tonnes compared to starting from real emission levels

9. Ireland is only one of five EU Member States which is set to miss its 2020 emission reduction targets under the EU Effort Sharing Decision, and the only one of these five States where emissions are predicted to continue to rise. See analysis from European Environment Agency here

10. In order to achieve the Government’s own National Policy Position (the ‘national transition objective’) analysis by the Coalition has shown that Ireland must reduce pollution 5% a year, every year from now to 2050. See analysis by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition here.

11. Ireland’s reputation among EU partners has suffered as the Irish Government has repeatedly called for less demanding obligations rather than planning on how to meet them, thereby undermining rather than supporting EU collective action on climate change. See Editorial by the Times here (final section). See articles by the Irish Times, the Irish Examiner, two articles by Politico (here and here), as well as Climate Change News.

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