Coalition's climate policy shift condemned


THE GOVERNMENT’S shift of policy on climate change has been criticised by the Green Party and environmental bodies but praised by the Irish Farmers’ Association and business lobby group Ibec.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the Coalition’s policy was “terrible” as it had effectively jettisoned a climate-change Bill. He also said the outcome of Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan’s strategic review was to commission another strategic review.

“It sends out a message that we do not need to do anything about this,” he said.

IFA president John Bryan welcomed the announcement. Mr Hogan, he said, had rightly recognised the importance of food security and the need for Irish agriculture to produce food in a low-carbon manner.

“The IFA has consistently argued that our permanent pasture and carbon sink from forestry had to be taken into account when devising our climate-change policy. The Government’s move will assist the sector in meeting the targets set out in Food Harvest 2020,” he said.

Business group Ibec welcomed the policy as a much more responsible approach than pushing through legislation. Its director of policy Brendan Butler said: “The nature of Irish business is that it is developing a strong emphasis on an environmentally friendly and low-carbon approach.

“We will work closely in supporting Mr Hogan in any way. This is a very pragmatic approach that will ensure we are not at a competitive disadvantage with [our] European counterparts.”

In his outline of policy direction yesterday, following the publication of the climate change review commissioned by him, Mr Hogan said he would pursue active policies and initiatives before drawing up legislation. He also said he was not going to set sectoral targets for emissions reductions.

Mr Ryan said both decisions were retrograde. “If you do not measure something, it’s a signal that it does not matter,” he said.

Environmental organisations were highly critical of the change. Oisín Coghlan of Friends of the Earth said it was a “spectacular U-turn” from Mr Hogan’s previously stated positions in favour of legislation.

It also puts him at odds with Government policy as restated by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore just two weeks ago when he said the Government would “deliver on climate change legislation in 2012”.

Tara Connolly, of the environmental pillar of social partnership, described it as “paralysis by analysis. We are only nine years away from our 2020 targets and we cannot wait another year to implement policies that reduce Ireland’s carbon emissions . . . We need a Climate Change Bill to make sure this Government and future governments don’t pass the buck.”

Oxfam Ireland said the decision had caused considerable uncertainty about Government policy in the run-up to UN negotiations in Durban.

Joe Murray of campaign group Afri said: “It is clear that Mr Hogan’s environmental policy now constitutes an abject surrender to these vested interests of industrialised farming and big business, underlined by his decision not to impose statutory targets for emissions reductions.”

On food security, Molly Walsh of Friends of the Earth said that with seven billion people it was more important than ever to reduce carbon emissions.

“Ireland is never going to be the bread basket of the world and we must recognise the . . . impacts that climate change will have on our food security. Inaction . . . is a threat to food security, not action,” she added.