Climate Bill passes Oireachtas 10 years after first published

Government faces statutory duty to meet emissions targets under new law

Long-awaited climate change legislation has completed its passage through the Oireachtas, creating statutory obligations to meet emissions targets.

Ten years after the legislation was first published, the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill will now be sent to President Michael D Higgins to be signed into law.

Reaction has been mixed with the Government describing it as a landmark moment while some Opposition parties denounced it as a “charade”.

Since 2007, efforts to get the Bill over the line have been hampered by internal political disagreements within two successive governments as well as the impact of the recession. The current Bill – which replaced the Climate Change Targets Bill – was introduced by former minister Phil Hogan with its passage overseen by his successor as Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly.


Roundly criticised

The law has been roundly criticised by environmental organisations and the Opposition for setting no specific long-term targets, particularly for 2050.

In its defence, the Department of the Environment says there will now be a statutory obligation on Ireland to comply with all EU targets set for emissions reductions.

Mr Kelly said this was a historic day for the country and sent an important message that Ireland was playing its role in the fight against global warming.

“The legislation will show that Ireland is taking climate change seriously. We now have very strong legislation that will be in place for many years to come.”

However, the Green Party was scathing in its criticism, describing it as a “charade” and a distraction. Cllr Malcolm Noonan said: “The Bill has no binding targets . . . and is purely aspirational.”

The new law will make Ireland one of only a handful of States in the EU with climate change legislation.

A key element is the establishment of an expert advisory committee, which is already operating informally. A late amendment to the legislation ensures its independence from government.

The Bill will also introduce a statutory basis for parliamentary accountability on climate change, putting an onus on the minister to account to the Dáil each year on what progress has been made in reducing emissions. It also provides for five-yearly National Low Carbon Transition and Mitigation Plans, which set out a plan for how the State will meet its emissions targets, set by policy and by the EU.


On a related matter, Mr Kelly and Minister for Communications Alex White have confirmed there are tensions between their departments over the introduction of draft wind energy guidelines.

The guidelines on the size of turbines, their shadow flicker, noise levels and the setback distance from dwellings, were published two years ago but a final decision has yet to be made.