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!

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Senator Higgins congratulates "tireless" activists on historic equality vote for Northern Ireland

The House of Commons voted today to advance marriage equality and abortion access in Northern Ireland if no assembly is formed by October 21st. 

Senator Higgins said in relation to the vote "This vote is an important and historic step towards marriage equality and abortion rights in Northern Ireland and is the result of the tireless work of activists who have fought for this progress for years".

Senator Higgins joins Oireachtas colleagues in calling for more effective health and safety protocols

As we enter Phase One and the reopening of certain sectors, the safety of society and workers has to remain paramount. I have joined  Joan Collins T.D, Senator Lynn Ruane and number of other Oireachtas colleagues, in supporting proposals put forward by Unite and other unions to ensure that health and safety protocols in the workplace are effective and enforced and that that trade unions have an active role in monitoring worker safety. 

We called on the Government to update the Return to Work Safety Protocol document and give inspectors the resources to conduct unannounced health and safety inspections of sites and issue on the spot fines. I have personally highlighted the need for more robust inspections on building sites where, as we heard in the Employment and Social Protection Committee last year, there is an excessive reliance on false or pressured ‘self-employment'.