Bigger parties ‘weakest on climate action’, campaigners say

FG, FF, SF manifestos score worst; climate expert says parties ‘still don’t seem to connect the dots’

The three main party leaders ‘are promising more climate action on the one hand, while at the same time promising more regional airports,’ says Dr Cara Augustenborg.

The One Future Campaign has published analysis that finds the three parties leading in opinion polls “have the weakest and vaguest promises on climate action” in their manifestos.

The campaign – supported by dozens of local and national groups from the women’s, youth, faith, environmental and overseas aid sectors – asked three independent climate policy experts to score the manifestos against One Future’s nine policy demands.

These demands include committing to climate targets based on science; investing in public transport and retrofitting homes, no new fossil fuel projects, a just transition deal for peat and coal workers, and support for farmers to reduce pollution and enhance nature.

Seven party manifestos were assessed Dr Cara Augustenborg of University College Dublin; Prof John Sweeney of Maynooth University, and Sadhbh O'Neill, a policy adviser to the members of the all-party Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action last year. Their scores were combined to give marks out of 100.


Overall scores are as follows:

Fine Gael: 34

Fianna Fáil: 36

Sinn Féin: 43

Social Democrats: 45

Labour: 55

People Before Profit: 63

Green Party: 78

Oisín Coghlan, co-convenor of the One Future Campaign, said the analysis shows no party is yet planning to do enough to prevent climate breakdown. “We need every party in the next Dáil to be committed to faster and fairer climate action. There’s still time for that to happen before election day which is why we are calling on all election candidates to pledge to support One Future’s nine policy proposals, if elected.”

Dr Augustenborg, who previously scored manifestos in the 2016 election, said: “While all the parties have improved their policies on climate and biodiversity since the last general election, it’s disappointing the larger parties still don’t seem to connect the dots.

“They are promising more climate action on the one hand, while at the same time promising more regional airports, for example, and not committing to the level of emissions reductions we need to help solve the problem. In an effort to promise something for everyone in the audience, they seem to have lost sight that the climate crisis is the biggest challenge humanity faces,” she added.

The manifestos indicate encouraging awareness of the seriousness and scope of the climate challenge facing Ireland, Prof Sweeney said. "The parties recognise the concerns of the electorate and their responsibilities as legislators to a degree not apparent in previous elections and this is to be welcomed. Several progressive policies are described and commitments to achieve agreed targets are liberally scattered throughout the manifestos."

The hard choices necessary to implement the aspirations, however, were less in evidence, he added. “Ultimately, radical emission cuts by all sectors of society and of businesses will be necessary in the short and medium terms to tackle effectively the climate and biodiversity emergency.”

No muddying of the water or excuses for any sector would gain currency with what is “an increasingly informed electorate concerned for their future well being and that of their children”, he believed.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times