Government move ‘stalls’ Climate Emergency Bill, says People Before Profit

Deputy Bríd Smith makes complaint to Ceann Comhairle

 The  legislation, proposed by Deputy Bríd Smith, would make Ireland the fifth country globally to ban fossil fuel exploration. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The legislation, proposed by Deputy Bríd Smith, would make Ireland the fifth country globally to ban fossil fuel exploration. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A Government move to stall a Climate Emergency Bill, that includes a proposal to end fossil fuel exploration in Ireland, was contrary to parliamentary rules on how legislation is processed, according to its proposer People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith.

Ms Smith confirmed on Friday she has written to the Ceann Comhairle and the chairwoman of the Oireachtas Communications, Climate Action and Environment Committee to complain that her Bill, which had passed initial stages, should have been allowed proceed to committee stage. The legislation would make Ireland the fifth country globally to ban fossil fuel exploration.

A decision was taken this week by the committee, which includes TDs and Senators, contrary to a new memorandum of understanding on how legislation is processed, she said.

When the committee took a vote, it was divided six:six, with Minister of State Sean Canney; chairwoman Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton, along with three Senators and independent TD Michael Lowry, voting to stop the Bill.

Mr Canney told the Committee on Tuesday the Bill “does not score well” in terms of energy sustainability, energy security and energy affordability.

While she accepted the bill was “well-intentioned”, Ms Naughton defended the decision on the basis it would not reduce carbon emissions, or oil and gas imports, and would undermine security of fuel supply.

Climate catastrophe

Ms Smith condemned the vote, especially by the Senators, who were trying to stop a measure that would address the impending climate catastrophe and did not turn up to pre-legislation examination of the Bill. The decision should have been taken by a selective committee of TDs only, which she said would have approved the Bill.

“It is profoundly undemocratic that three senators should try to stop this measure. In the Dáil rules this should be a function of the select committee of TDs only. There is a clear majority among TDs to progress this Bill to committee. . . this sends a message that the Dáil is incapable of grappling with climate change or even understanding its seriousness.”

The TD said scientists from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had recently told the Climate Action Committee a ban such as proposed by the Bill made sense. “This committee has effectively ignored the IPCC and the world’s climate scientists.”

The TD has requested that a meeting of the select committee of TDs be held as soon as possible to decide on the Bill’s progress.

She said her understanding of the new rules agreed this week were clear, that this decision should be one for the select committee only.

“The attempt by the Government and a cabal of senators to stop this bill shows they have little understanding of climate change and have a contempt for democracy.”

The Government this week had “killed the Climate Emergency Measures Bill by putting it into committee limbo”, said Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. It would have helped Ireland meet its climate change responsibilities by keeping oil and gas in the ground, but was now stalled with no clear way forward, he added.

“Despite dire warning from climate scientists and reports showing we are the worst in the EU, we still see this Fine Gael Government brazenly stop clear measures that would help us meet our climate change responsibilities. By stopping this Bill moving forward they are holding future generations, who will have to deal with this growing crisis, in contempt,” he said.