Oireachtas will vote on carbon budgets under new climate plan

Departments will be required to account to Dáil and Seanad on carbon reduction

All of Government Plan to Tackle Climate Disruption will be published by Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton in the coming weeks.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

All of Government Plan to Tackle Climate Disruption will be published by Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton in the coming weeks. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The Oireachtas will vote on new carbon budgets set out by successive governments, with any purchasing of carbon credits by departments who fail to hit their targets set out in the annual financial estimates.

The proposal is included in a new All of Government Plan to Tackle Climate Disruption, which will be published by Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton in the coming weeks and sets out major reforms to how the State works.

Ministers will have to account to the Dáil and Seanad every year on the carbon reduction performance in their areas of responsibility.

A draft of the plan, seen by The Irish Times, says it aims to “make Ireland a leader in responding to climate disruption”.

“The plan will be monitored quarterly and updated annually, with a Climate Action Plan 2020 published in early 2020.” It follows the Action Plan for Jobs template laid down by Mr Bruton when he was Minister for Jobs.

A “climate action delivery board” is to be established in the Department of the Taoiseach to “hold each department and public body accountable for the delivery of actions”.

A delivery report will be published each quarter.

It will also set out a “rolling” three-year strategy on how to transition to a low-carbon society. The remit of the current Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland will also be broadened and all “government memos and major investment decisions are subject to a carbon impact and mitigation evaluation”.

Climate Action Council

A new Climate Action Council will also be established as a successor organisation to the Climate Change Advisory Council. It will be given extra powers.

“We will propose a new Climate Action (Amendment) Bill which will introduce a requirement on government to propose carbon budgets for three five-year periods,” the report says.

“The carbon budget will be the total amount of emissions which can be emitted during a five-year period. The carbon budget will be calculated on an economy wide basis. The first three carbon budgets would cover three five-year periods: 2021-2025, 2026-2030, 2031-2035.”

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment will propose such budgets to the Climate Action Council for advice, and then will propose a motion to the Dáil and Seanad to adopt the budgets.

“The Government will be required to either comply with the carbon budgets proposed by the Climate Action Council or to explain why the Government are proposing an alternative carbon budget,” the plan says.

“Where the Minister has not followed the advice of the Climate Action Council, the Minister will make a written statement to both houses setting out the reasons why the Government are not accepting the advice of the council.”

New commissioner

Following the setting of the overall carbon budget, the Minister will set out targets for each sector of the economy. Ministers with responsibility for each sector would report to the Oireachtas on progress.

If there is a deviation from the targets as laid down, the Minister would set out what measures to be taken to rectify the situation. To provide oversight, the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change would be given similar powers to the Public Accounts Committee.

A new parliamentary commissioner on climate action, within the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, is also suggested.

Public service bodies will be required to meet a “core” group of requirements, with additional obligations placed on larger public service organisations. The core requirements will have specific timelines for their introduction, and be clearly measurable against a set of key performance indicators.

A Government source said: “Climate change is the biggest issue facing humanity. It is absolutely vital that the public service leads by example. That means that the Government will take steps to ensure that every public service body is at the forefront of decarbonisation.”