Senator Alice-Mary Higgins urges Government to “Step up the Speed and Ambition on Climate Action”

Alice Mary Higgins Climate Bill Report Launch 1
Alice Mary Higgins Climate Bill Report Launch 1

JOC on Climate publishes report with 78 recommendations to improve Climate Bill. 

 After eight weeks of intense pre-legislative scrutiny, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action’s today published its official report on the ‘Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2020’ including 78 “significant recommendations on how the Bill should be strengthened.

 

Independent Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, a member of the committee said: “From all the testimony we heard, it was clear that the draft Climate Bill did not reflect the ambition or urgency demanded by civil society, scientists or by environmental activists who know we are running out of time. I believe we have produced a strong report with significant recommendations and I urge the Government to make sure those recommendations are clearly reflected in the re-drafting of the Bill.”

“There was a deep and serious engagement in this process from the experts who testified and from all of us across the Committee. Ireland really needs to step up the speed and ambition on Climate Action and that requires strong legislation and firm targets.”

 “Our Committee has recommended that weak language like “pursue climate neutrality” by 2050 be replaced by stronger commitments to “achieve climate neutrality. I also believe that a focus on 2050 is not enough when it is what we do in the next ten years that will matter most. That is why I believe one of the Committee’s most important recommendations is our call for the inclusion of a “national minimum interim target for 2030” in the text of the Bill.”

 “Rec. 33. National minimum Interim targets that put Ireland on a pathway to achieving the National Climate Objective should be set out in the Bill. These should include an interim target for 2030 of 51% reductions based on 2018 levels.”

 Senator Higgins noted that “the ‘51% by 2030’ would put a commitment already made in the Programme for Government into law. There were witnesses who made the case for a much higher 2030 target and some of us would have preferred that, but the important thing is that there needs to be a legally binding 2030 baseline which drives early action. This is separate from the carbon budget process, where the Climate Advisory Council will propose 5 year budgets based to the latest scientific information, which may of course be more ambitious The Committee also recommended ways to strengthen the carbon budgeting process including measures to avoid overreliance on unproven future carbon capture technologies when planning carbon budgets.”

 Senator Higgins noted “This is the UN Decade of Action, just ten years to deliver on the Paris Agreement and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and we have recommended stronger commitments to both these treaties in the Bill. We have also suggested that actions under this Bill should not just “have regard to” but “be consistent with” all our international climate obligations and the best IPCC Climate Science.”

 “Biodiversity and nature based solutions are deeply linked with climate action and we recommended a number of ways that should be recognised in the Bill. We also noted the absence Just Transition and recommended the strong inclusion of both Just Transition and Climate Justice in the redrafted Bill.”

 Senator Higgins concluded “We have also made recommendations to strengthen the power of citizens and communities to hold Government to account on climate. Both public and political pressure will be needed to drive the action needed. This pre-legislative scrutiny is just the beginning and I look forward to further engagement on the final Bill when it starts its legislative journey through the Oireachtas.”

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Senator Higgins highlights inequalities in education arising from COVID-19

Over the last number of weeks, I have been corresponding with the Minister for Education and Skills on issues raised by Covid 19 at every level of our education system. This crisis has deepened inequalities already faced by many students, I have called for particular action on the difficulties faced by students in direct provision. I have also pressed for a ‘no detriment’ policy and policies that ensure real opportunity and choice for all leaving cert students. In a time of emergency we cannot allow vulnerable communities to be left behind -  I have also highlighted the challenges faced by Ireland’s research sector and called for more flexible and ambitious funding across science and the humanities, including more public-public research. The collective challenges we will face in terms of society, culture, economy and environment over the coming months and years will require research of many different kinds. The Irish Research Council funding for research on the Sustainable Development Goals is one example of a project which could and should be scaled up as we try to ensure future resilience and sustainability. Education can and must be an accessible and enriching social good. 

Lastly, as part of the wider reimagining of our public spaces, I have called for an investment in better cycling and pedestrian infrastructure around our schools to ensure that safe and sustainable transport is an option for more families next September.