Climate legislation due next week

Minister for Environment Phil Hogan said the Government's approach had to balance the challenge of greenhouse gas mitigation and opportunity for economic growth. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Environment Phil Hogan said the Government's approach had to balance the challenge of greenhouse gas mitigation and opportunity for economic growth. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Fri, Feb 8, 2013, 00:00

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan will bring the outline of progressive climate legislation to Government next week.

He faced Opposition criticism in the Dáil today for failing to produce such legislation after two years in office.

Mr Hogan insisted that a one-size-fits-all approach to climate policy would not work. He said Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions profile was unique in the EU, and denied pandering to particular sectors.

He said the Government’s approach had to balance the challenge of greenhouse gas mitigation and opportunity for new growth.

While Ireland could learn from policy and legislative responses in other countries, it would be unwise to think that what works elsewhere provides an easy or appropriate solution for Ireland, he said.

Mr Hogan was responding to the Energy Security and Climate Change Bill introduced by Independent TD Catherine Murphy. The Minister rejected the Bill, which sets specific targets for cutting carbon emissions including an interim 40 per cent reduction in the climate change element and a similar target for reducing emissions in six greenhouse gases.

She said Ireland imported €6 billion a year in fossil fuels and had an 85 per cent dependency on those fuels compared to an EU average of 50 per cent.

Ms Murphy said she was disappointed that two years into the Government’s term in office it still had not produced a climate change Bill and she was concerned the Minister would not include specific targets but outline transition plans.

Former Fianna Fáil agriculture minister Brendan Smith said there were complex difficulties confronting the agriculture sector because of the need to produce more food to feed more people.

He said a decrease in the quantity of Irish-produced beef and the correlating rise in its price would inevitably lead to larger quantities of Mercosur (South American) country beef products being imported at cheaper prices but with far greater environmental costs.

That did not mean abandoning hope any hope of greater carbon efficiencies in the agricultural sector, he said, adding that there had been substantial progress in this area through better farming techniques and improved animal husbandry.

Sinn Féin environment spokesman Brian Stanley said there was not a community on the island of Ireland that had not experienced the consequences of climate change through the flooding of towns and villages.

He said flooding was causing damage to crops, especially cereals, resulting in major loss of income for farmers. The grazing season is now shorter, which means cattle have to be fed with expensive imported feed, which increases costs and the carbon footprint of cattle production.

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