Senator Alice-Mary Higgins speaking at the conclusion of the Climate Bill Debate

As the stark facts of the IPCC report are underscored by fires and floods across the world. I’m sharing my thoughts on the Climate Bill and how Ireland must and can do better on Climate Action. Immediate actions should include a moratorium on data centres, exit from Energy Charter Treaty, a ban on LNG terminals and leadership re global ban on fracking and #2050istoolate.

Ireland is starting late on climate action and it should be starting stronger. Here are some important challenges, gaps and concerns which will need further attention and action in the months ahead.

Limitation of liability: This problematic clause limits compensation for citizens hurt by climate inaction at the same time as the Government want to introduce new liabilities/compensation for corporations under the Investor Court System/CETA with chill effect. It's more important than ever to stop the ratification of CETA.

Climate Justice: I am glad that the Government removed a weak and damaging definition of climate justice but am disappointed they did not replace it with the strong one as proposed by NGOs and Senators. Government must now prove sincerity on this through concrete global solidarity action for example at COP26 and through funding.

Just Transition: "There are also people involved in just transition who have been ahead of us." A strong Just Transition definition is not included in the legislation. The Government will need to place communities, trade unions and others at centre of Just Transition for a ground up approach to climate action.

SDGs: Ireland played key role in negotiating the UN Sustainable Development Goals yet the Government rejected any amendments to include them in Climate Bill. The SDGs are not aspirational or optional they must be recognised as crucial blueprint for how we survive together on this fragile planet. 

Market forces: "If we try to fit climate action into stock market model, we will fail and the world will burn". The Minister's economic framing doesn’t recognise that, as with housing, speculation is a problem not a solution and we can’t afford that. 

2030 Target:”51% should be the floor not the ceiling”. Unfortunately the Government rejected my amendment to insert ‘at least’ before ‘51%’ which would have given the Climate Change Advisory Council flexibility to propose more ambitious budgets. Many scientists also have concerns regarding how the 51% target may be calculated.

Oil and Gas: The Climate Bill still allows the Minister to grant NEW licenses and leases for fossil fuel extraction, for example where there has been previous exploration licence. This actively undermines the aim of Bill and may be motivated by fear of litigation through the Energy Charter Treaty. Ireland needs to stop digging!

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins calls for “green networks of cycle and pedestrian lanes and new ambition for rural public transport” at launch of new Committee report on Transport and Climate Action

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action launched its Report on Reducing Emissions in the Transport Sector last Wednesday 3rd June. It is the first in a series of sectoral analyses on how Ireland will meet its target of a 51% reduction in emissions by 2030. 

Ireland has the fourth highest level of transport emissions per capita in Europe and the transport sector is responsible for around 20% of our overall CO₂ emissions, with private cars being the largest contributors to transport emissions.

Senator Higgins welcomes Minister’s change in position on COVID legislation after Senators protest “indefinite extensions” of emergency COVID measures

Following pressure during yesterday’s second stage debate and the tabling of amendments from Senators Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane and Frances Black, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told the Seanad today that he had “reflected overnight” and accepted the demands for a clear “endpoint” to the emergency legislation.

The Bill as published had allowed for what Senator Higgins described as “indefinite extension of emergency powers by simple resolution with no requirement for legislative scrutiny and no ultimate end date”.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins welcomes “important shift in policy and approach” as Minister O’Gorman publishes legislation to give adopted people access to birth certs and early life information

Senator Higgins has welcomed new draft legislation published by Minister O’Gorman yesterday “as an important shift in policy and approach which could finally give adopted people proper access their birth certificates, and birth and early life information.”

Speaking today Senator Higgins said “This proposed legislation seems to offer long-overdue recognition and support for the rights of adopted people to access their birth certificates, and birth and early life information.”

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins welcomes “powerful and positive” US decision to support a TRIPS waiver on Covid 19 vaccines at WTO negotiations.

“EU Commission will have no excuse and no cover if they continue to block urgent global scale-up in vaccine production”

A temporary suspension of Intellectual property rights to allow increased global production of vaccines has been proposed by over 60 countries at the WTO but had until now been blocked by a small group of wealthier countries including the US and EU.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins calls on Government to support a TRIPS waiver for COVID-19 vaccines at crucial WTO meeting as daily death toll escalates in India and Brazil

Independent Senator Alice-Mary Higgins has said “there is an urgent moral responsibility on the Irish Government to support a Trade and Intellectual Property Rules (TRIPS) waiver and publicly press the European Commission to vote in favour of that TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting on April 30th”.

A TRIPS waiver would allow for the sharing of the intellectual property for COVID-19 vaccines. The proposal has been supported by NGOs such as Oxfam and Médecins Sans Frontieres.

The 'low-ball' public procurement model is broken and needs reform

Read my op-ed in The Journal here - https://www.thejournal.ie/read...

IN 2019, IRELAND spent €12 billion on contracts for goods, services and construction. This figure is set to rise considerably in the coming years as €116 billion in major capital works projects are rolled out under the National Development Plan.

The public has a right to expect that when money is spent on their behalf, it is spent in a way that delivers the best results. That requires a carefully thought-through approach to the quality of standards and performance in areas like sustainability, social impact, decent employment and design.