5 tests for the Government’s new climate plan: ‘A New Departure on the path to zero climate pollution’

Government climate plan must signal a New Departure on the path to zero climate pollution
Campaigners set out 5 tests for Government’s new climate plan due next week (detailed briefing)
> Is the new 2050 target net zero emissions, like the UK just announced?
> Will the key oversight and accountability provisions be put into law?
> Will the Oireachtas Committee recommendations be implemented in full and on time?
> Are the emissions reductions quantified and compared to our carbon budget?
> Is it clear how and when the next round of actions will be devised?
Government chicanery on Bill to end new oil and gas exploration casts long shadow over planned reputational reboot

Campaigners have said that the Government’s new climate action plan, due early next week, must signal a ‘New Departure’, putting Ireland on the path to zero climate pollution by 2050 and ending business-as-usual. The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition has published a detailed analysis of what to look for in the plan, setting out five tests for whether the it amounts to credible climate action.

Commenting, Oisín Coghlan, Director of Friends of the Earth and the Coalition’s coordinator said:

“This is the biggest climate policy announcement by an Irish government in 20 years.

“Unfortunately, the problem with previous plans launched in 2000 and 2007 is that they weren’t followed up with enough actual action. Ireland got its reputation as a climate laggard because of that ‘implementation gap’.
That’s why one of the key tests this time is a new climate law that will drive implementation and ensure accountability. Will the Government put our 2050 target into law, along with five-year carbon budgets voted on by the Dáil, a fully independent Climate Council and a powerful Oireachtas oversight committee? These are the crucial accountability mechanisms we’ve campaigned for since 2007 and they are more vital than ever now.
Ireland is trying to leapfrog from laggard to leader in climate action. Longtime climate policy leader, the UK, has just committed to putting a new 2050 target of net zero emissions into law. Eight EU countries have already come out to say that must be the new EU target too. To have any credibility Ireland will have to join that group before Leo heads to Brussels for the European Council meeting next week, where climate change is on the agenda.
“The Citizens’ Assembly gave a resounding call to action in its report on climate change, and the special Oireachtas Committee mapped out 41 specific recommendations to put us on the path to zero climate pollution. We want to see the Government commit to implementing the Oireachtas recommendations in full and on time. Starting with the establishment of a Just Transition Taskforce to bring unions, employers, impacted communities, farmers and others together to ensure no one is left behind as we move towards zero pollution.

The Government is hoping for a climate action ‘reputational reboot’ as it looks for votes in its bid for a UN Security Council seat. Fine Gael supported the Dáil motion to officially declare a Climate Emergency recently. But the Party and this climate plan will have no credibility if the Government continues to use a procedural veto to stop TDs even debating the Climate Emergency Bill to end new offshore oil and gas exploration. Leo Varadkar has to stop speaking out of both sides of his mouth on climate action and pick a side, the fossil fuel industry or a safe future for our children. Otherwise it doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles Richard Bruton’s climate plan has, no one will trust them follow through fast enough or fairly enough.

Note 1. Stop Climate Chaos is a coalition of civil society organisations campaigning for Ireland to do its fair share to tackle climate change since 2007. The members include overseas aid and development, environmental, youth and faith-based organisations: The 34 members of the Coalition are: Afri, An Taisce, BirdWatch Ireland, Christian Aid Ireland, Comhlámh, Community Work Ireland, Concern Worldwide, Cultivate, Cyclist.ie, Dublin Friends of the Earth, Eco Congregation Ireland, ECO UNESCO, Feasta, Fossil Free TCD, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the Irish Environment, Good Energies Alliance Ireland, Irish Doctors for the Environment, Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, Just Forests, Latin America Solidarity Centre, Liberia Solidarity Group, Methodist Church of Ireland – Council of Social Responsibility, Mountmellick Environmental Group, National Youth Council of Ireland, Oxfam Ireland, People’s Climate Ireland, Presentation Ireland, Self Help Africa, Tearfund Ireland, Trócaire, Vita, VOICE, Young Friends of the Earth.  https://www.stopclimatechaos.ie/

2. The SCC briefing “Five Tests for the All Of Government Climate Action Plan” is online here:

https://www.stopclimatechaos.ie/download/pdf/five_tests_for_the_all_of_government_climate_action_planbriefing_from_stop_climate_chaos.pdf

In summary, the 5 tests are:

1)   Does the Plan acknowledge the scale of the challenge? 
> Does the Plan accept that Ireland needs to get to net-zero emissions by 2050?
> Does it acknowledge that EU and Irish 2030 targets must be strengthened in line with the temperature objectives of the Paris Agreement to hold global temperature rise to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C (above pre-industrial levels)?

2)   Does the Plan commit to putting the Joint Oireachtas Committee’s recommendations on governance into law by the end of the year?

Will the Government bring forward legislation before the summer recess to amend the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act (2015) in line with the governance recommendations in Chapter One of the Joint Oireachtas Committee report? This includes putting a new 2050 target into law, 5-year carbon budgets voted on by the Dáil, a strengthened Climate Action Council, and a standing committee of the Dáil to act like the Public Accounts Committee for carbon emissions.

3)    Does the Plan commit to implementing the recommendations from the Joint Oireachtas Committee in full and on time to cut emissions in every sector?

In addition to implementing recommendations for improved governance and accountability, does the Plan also incorporate all other recommendations from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA), and commit to their implementation in full and on time? See note 3 below for a summary of the recommendations in the report of the Joint Committee.

4)    Does the Plan “do the math”?
> Does the Plan quantify the emissions reductions for each policy measure in all sectors?
> Does the Plan provide sufficient detail around these measures to allow the EPA to update their projections scenarios (i.e., its With Additional Measures scenario) for between now and 2030?
> Does the Plan assess these reductions and our overall remaining emissions against stated future carbon budgets, meeting existing and revised 2030 and 2050 targets, including prudent, fair-share Paris-alignment?

5)    Does the Plan clarify how the Government will devise the next set of actions? 

>Does the Plan acknowledge that the recommendations presented by the Joint Oireachtas Committee are not enough, on their own, to deliver Ireland’s fair share of climate action to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, as the Committee itself has done.
> Does the Plan establish a process and a timeline for developing and adopting the next round of actions?
> Is there detail on how the Plan will be integrated into Ireland’s first National Energy and Climate Plan (due end of 2019), the Long-term strategy (due January 2020), and a revised National Mitigation Plan?

Note 3. The report of the Joint Oireahtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA) is online here.

The key recommendations of the JOCCA include:

  • New climate legislation providing for:
> A target for Ireland to have net-zero emissions by 2050 to be put into law
> The setting of 5-yearly carbon budgets (pollution limits) by the Oireachtas
> A target of 70% of electricity to be renewable by 2030
> A stronger Climate Action Council.
> A new standing committee of the Oireachtas to act as the public accounts committee for carbon
  • The establishment of a Just Transition Taskforce involving all stakeholders to deliver security and opportunity communities impacted by the move to low carbon economy.
  • The establishment of a One-Stop Shop in each county to support citizen and community participation in the low-carbon transition.
  • The delivery of public information campaigns by Government, and a more proactive role for broadcasters and Met Éireann.
  • An appraisal of the greenhouse gas emissions impact of all new infrastructure projects including those listed in the national development plan, Project Ireland 2040.
  • Allowing communities to sell micro-generated solar and other renewable energy to the national grid and receive a payment of, at least, the wholesale price for electricity. The lifting of planning restrictions for solar PV on homes, schools, farms and small businesses.
  • A target for community owned renewable electricity of 500MW by 2025.
  • A re-evaluation by Government, Bord na Móna and the ESB of plans to subsidise biomass to co-fire peat stations.
  • The development by the end of 2019, of a new plan for agriculture to align the sector with meeting Ireland’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. Reform of the CAP to support the transition to a low-carbon economy within the agri-food sector. It is also recommended that the Government convene a stakeholder forum on agricultural diversification by June 2019.
  • The development of a new national land-use plan, a national hedgerow survey, and a new forestry plan, focused on climate mitigation by end 2020. A target of net sequestration for Ireland’s peatlands (as opposed to being a source of carbon emissions) by 2050; and the delivery of a funded programme of rehabilitation and restoration of peatlands by the end of this year.
  • An urgent needs assessment of what is required to retrofit 45,000 homes a year and explore increasing that to 75,000 houses a year over time. That revised building regulations would set a Nearly Zero Energy Building standard by end 2020. Other recommendations in the building sector include the implementation of a huge programme of retrofitting public buildings, and a ban on new fossil fuel boilers in public buildings
  • Implementation of a new plan for the Smarter Travel: A Sustainable Travel Future policy in time for Budget 2020, and full implementation of the National Cycle Policy Framework by 2020.

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