New climate Bill to set no binding CO2 targets


Draft legislation on climate change to be brought to Cabinet tomorrow will not provide for binding targets for emission reductions, nor a powerful independent commission to ensure Government compliance.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan will bring the heads of the Climate Change Bill to the weekly meeting of Government Ministers tomorrow, with a view to publishing the final legislation by the end of the year.

The draft legislation is based on the final report on climate change strategy by the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), which will also be published tomorrow.

Marked departure

The NESC report, which has been seen by The Irish Times, argues for a marked departure from the type of legislation in the UK, also proposed by previous minister for the environment John Gormley. It put binding targets for emissions reduction on a statutory footing and the Government’s performance was evaluated by an independent climate change commission.

The NESC said it agreed strongly with the Coalition’s argument that Ireland needed to move beyond a “compliance-centric approach”.

In a critical review of the top-down “linear” approach adopted internationally, particularly by the United Nations, the report found such initiatives (including the Kyoto protocol) have had limited impact and that the international approach has not worked.

The report argues that, for Ireland to become a carbon neutral country by 2050, the State needs to focus not only on the scale of emission reductions but equally on the steps, strategies and policies required to bring about carbon neutrality.

‘How to’ policies

The NESC has said there needs to be a balance between what is set down in the targets and the “how to” policies that make them achievable. There is an implied criticism that targets have been set without adequate knowledge or thinking on how they can be achieved.

The NESC has suggested an experimental approach based on strong governance with involvement from all stakeholder, including Government, local authorities, agencies, private firms and communities.

“There is widespread evidence of innovations below the level of the State in Ireland and elsewhere – which is a finding that has greatly influenced our analysis and thinking,” it states, listing green initiatives by Glanbia, Bord na Móna and Bewley’s that were taken of their own volition.

“It is [not] based on a naïve belief that bottom-up or purely private, local and unco-ordinated approaches can reverse the huge demographic and economic forces bringing increased global carbon emissions – the ‘every little helps’ fallacy.”

A senior Government source said yesterday there would no binding targets in the legislation as the EU target for 2020, which requires Ireland to make a 20 per cent reduction in carbon emissions, is already binding.