New climate legislation has ‘critical weaknesses’

Absence of 2050 target creates ‘critical uncertainty’ for investors, Client Earth report finds

The membership of the Expert Advisory Council undermines its independence, a report from  Client Earth has found.

The membership of the Expert Advisory Council undermines its independence, a report from Client Earth has found.

 

The Government’s climate change legislation will fail to achieve its goals unless major weaknesses in the Bill are addressed, a report by an international body has found.

Client Earth, an international environmental law organisation, has conducted a comparative analysis of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill which is expected to become law this summer.

The report concludes the Bill “will fail to deliver the low carbon future its aims to achieve unless critical weaknesses are addressed”.

Client Earth compared the Bill against climate legislation around Europe.

The Bill has been criticised for not including long-term emissions-reduction targets for 2050 and for not making the operation of the legislation more independent from government.

The report finds the lack of a 2050 target for reducing emissions produces “critical uncertainty” for investors.

It also finds the membership of the Expert Advisory Council undermines its independence.

It concludes that unless the Bill is revised at Committee Stage in the Dáil later this month, the Bill will “do little to help Ireland meet its international commitments or move the economy onto a less polluting pathway”.

The report was commissioned by Stop Climate Chaos, an umbrella group of non-government agencies with an interest in this area.

Jim Clarken of Oxfam said the report should set alarm bells ringing across Government.

“Client Earth is the most recent addition to a long line of experts, including government backbenchers and a cross-party committee, to point out the shortcomings of the Bill.”

“The report shines a light on how poorly the Irish Bill compares to climate laws being designed and passed across Europe,” Oisin Coghlan of Friends of the Earth said.

As recently as March Finland passed a Bill that sets a legally binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050 (compared to 1990) and creates an independent expert committee to advise the Government in planning climate change strategy. The Irish Climate Bill does neither.”

He argued the Government should use the template of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council when setting up its expert advisory group on climate change.

Jonathan Church, energy lawyer at Client Earth, said: “This Bill is a golden opportunity for Ireland to encourage renewable energy investors by setting long-term, legally binding national targets which support the EU’s targets. It doesn’t do this.

“Furthermore, the UK experience has shown that a climate change committee needs to be independent of Government if it’s to do its job properly. As things stand, the Expert Advisory Council doesn’t look independent, and that alone will handicap it from the start.”

Members of Stop Climate Chaos are due to meet Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly on Wednesday to discuss what they see as shortcomings in the Bill.