We are facing a dual crisis on climate change and biodiversity.
In the Seanad, I led opposition to Bills that threatened hedgerows, peatlands and pollinators. I sought protection for our oceans and green spaces, and a ban on microbeads. On the Climate Action Committee, I pressed for ambitious targets, an exit from all fossil fuels, and investment in retrofitting, public transport and cycling. A just transition is about quality employment, sustainable communities and economic policies that respect the environment. As a climate activist for over a decade, I am ready to drive the urgent action we need.
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!