Greens want to enact climate Bill before election

 

GREEN PARTY Minister of State Ciarán Cuffe has expressed optimism that the Climate Change Response Bill, published yesterday, will be enacted by the Oireachtas before the Government leaves office, probably in March.

“It’s achievable, possible and realistic to see it coming through,” he said. “The legislation associated with the Budget will take three weeks and I believe there is space in that timeframe to progress the Dublin mayor and climate Bills, and get them through,” he added.

Mr Cuffe, who has responsibility for climate change, and his party leader, Minister for the Environment John Gormley, described the Bill as a “legislative priority” for the Government and said they would be seeking to have it enacted in February 2011.

Questioned further about the chances of the Bill being passed before the general election, a Government spokesman said it was intended that the climate change Bill would be enacted as soon as possible. No timetable had been arranged as yet but the Government was intent on having the Bill passed by the Dáil and Seanad, he added.

A spokesman for the Chief Whip’s office said the timetable for the proposed legislation was being discussed with Ministers to ensure that it proceeds at a steady pace in the new year.

There is to be a public consultation period from now until January 28th on the contents of the Bill, under which Ireland would be committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 2.5 per cent per year on average between now and 2020.

It also sets a target to reduce emissions by 40 per cent overall by 2030, and 80 per cent by 2050, compared to 1990 emissions, with progress towards meeting these goals to be outlined in an annual statement to the Oireachtas.

Asked if he could quantify how much extra costs would be imposed on people by setting such ambitious targets to cut emissions, Mr Cuffe said: “Putting a price on carbon is about facing up to our responsibilities. It’s not about politics, it’s about survival.”

The Government’s role would be to provide incentives for reducing emissions, such as more fuel-efficient cars, the Greener Homes Scheme and renewable energy programmes. “There is a cost, but we want to give people a menu of options to help in cutting emissions,” he said.

Mr Cuffe also expected negotiations about where exactly cuts were to be made would take place within the expert advisory body, which is to be established under the legislation to advise ministers and the government on national and sectoral planning.

Business lobby group Ibec warned the Bill’s targets for cutting emissions would be “hugely damaging to Ireland’s economic competitiveness unless they are revised”. It also complained that the Government failed to consult with business and other stakeholders about the measures.

“The Government is signalling much higher environmental penalties than anywhere else in Western Europe,” said Dr Neil Walker, Ibec’s head of energy and environment policy. “Climate change is a long-term global problem that will not be solved by Ireland going it alone.”

Pat Finnegan, of the Grian climate change group, said it was no secret the year-long delay in publishing the Bill has been due to widespread scepticism and resistance inside Government and inside government departments.

But Friends of the Earth’s Irish director, Óisín Coghlan, hailed its publication as a landmark in Irish climate policy and “a great day for our supporters who have worked so hard over the last four years [for] Ireland to play its full part in the fight against climate change”.

Mr Gormley said the enormous challenge would bring immense opportunities as the low-carbon economy will see the development of new industrial sectors.

“These new clean technologies will create new jobs and develop new sources of economic growth,” he said.

Mr Cuffe said enactment of the legislation “will send a very clear signal to the global investment and business community that the direction of public policy in Ireland is unambiguous and that Ireland is a prime location for long-term investment opportunities.”

MAIN POINTS TARGETS

Short-term target to reduce Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions by an average 2.5 per cent per year (based on 2008 levels) by 2020.

Longer-term targets to reduce emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050 (based on 1990 levels).

National Climate Change Plan to address both greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

Government may require ministers to produce sectoral plans to address mitigation and adaptation in their areas of responsibility.

Annual transition statement to the Oireachtas on progress towards implementing national and sectoral plans.

Expert body to advise ministers and the government on national and sectoral planning and the annual transition statement.