Green Ministers defend climate Bill in wake of criticism


GREEN PARTY Ministers have defended the Climate Change Response Bill against criticism that it is rushed and inflexible, will damage agriculture and the economy and sets more ambitious targets than any other European country.

Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan and the Minister of State for Sustainable Transport, Ciarán Cuffe, both dismissed the criticisms yesterday.

They contended that the legislation presented huge opportunities for Ireland that would create employment and prosperity through a sustainable, low-carbon and low-oil economy.

The Bill was published on December 23rd and the Government will move the second stage in the Seanad today. A simultaneous consultation process on the legislation is also under way, which will conclude in January 31st.

With amendments expected to be made on the back of consultations, the Bill is not likely to be enacted until close to when the Dáil is dissolved in February.

In the past week, the Bill has come under sustained criticism from business organisation Ibec, the Irish Farmers Association and a number of Fianna Fáil backbenchers.

Yesterday, both Mr Ryan and Mr Cuffe denied that the Bill would impose more onerous targets on Ireland than the EU’s own targets. The EU target is for a 20 per cent reduction in emissions (in the non-traded) sector by 2020 compared to 2005.

This will entail steep falls in emissions from the agriculture sector and also from the transport sector. The legislation refers to targets of 26 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2030, but these also take into account the impact of increased forestation (which acts as a carbon sink and leads to a net reduction in carbon emissions).

“I do not think it fair to say that we are going beyond EU targets This is simply about adhering to EU targets,” Mr Cuffe told The Irish Times.

“Ireland has a chequered track record in adhering to EU directives This is about getting our house in order . . . No doubt there will be horse-trading and amendments. But the substantial part of the Bill is to set targets . . . in Ireland and to achieve real results,” he said.

Speaking on RTÉ earlier, Mr Ryan pointed to the flexibility of the legislation, which would allow targets to be moved up and down without amending the legislation.

The party has said if targets cannot be reached without damaging the economy the targets will be adjusted. It also said there were safeguards to ensure the competitiveness of Ireland vis-a-vis other countries was maintained.

Ibec director general Danny McCoy yesterday argued that there was an unseemly rush to get the legislation through, comparing the six weeks of consultation with the 18 months in the UK.