Controversy over the robustness of the Climate Action Bill has resurfaced after Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan indicated that only Government amendments would be accepted before its final approval.
Environment groups say the latest version has not taken on board their proposed amendments submitted last month, and does not make sufficiently clear commitments.
The Bill is due to be adopted in the coming weeks.
Mr Ryan told the Oireachtas Climate Committee on Thursday that he believed the Bill was sufficiently robust so any future amendments would only come from the Government.
However, Climate Case Ireland (CCI) campaign co-ordinator Clodagh Daly said: "How can the Government – and particularly the Green Party – justify voting against Ireland committing in law to do its fair share to limit global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees?
“We cannot speak about a ‘green recovery’ while failing to ground our climate legislation in science and equity.”
CCI said the Bill needed a clear and binding commitment to remaining below a 1.5-degree increase in global average temperature relative to pre-industrial levels; must ensure action on climate change and biodiversity loss “is fully complementary”; and also enshrine climate justice and just transition as its central organising principles.
It was not enough that this Bill “is more ambitious” than its predecessor, Ms Daly added. It “will not enable steep emissions reductions in the short-term, and this makes it inadequate from a scientific and climate justice perspective”.
“We know that this Bill is our last shot at remaining below 1.5 degrees. We need a Bill that follows the science and aligns with climate justice.
“The Government will itself remain exempt from important parts of the act,” Ms Daly added.
A new section on limitation of liability runs counter to the 2003 European Convention on Human Rights Act, which provides for damages to be recoverable for infringements of human rights, she said.
“Everyone who lives within the hundreds of square kilometres of Ireland that the EPA has said may be impacted by sea level rise and storm surges stands to be adversely impacted by this provision.”
A Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications spokeswoman said the Bill was “one of the strongest and most ambitious climate Acts in the world”. “There are few, if any, countries that have legislated for as steep an emissions reduction as this Bill, as required under the Paris agreement to limit warming to 1.5 degree.”
She said this steep reduction “is central to the principle of climate justice”.
The Bill places a governance framework on Ministers to achieve sectoral emissions reductions, “and includes robust oversight of Ministers by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate, with independent expert advice to both from the Climate Change Advisory Council”.
The Bill sets out a specific obligation on the State to pursue and achieve the national climate objective of net-zero emissions by no later than 2050 and at least 51 per cent by 2030, she said.
“In addition the Government and Ministers are bound to prepare carbon budgets, complete detailed climate action plans and ensure they are implemented and emissions reductions are achieved.”
The Government had adopted or partially adopted 70 of the 78 recommendations of the Oireachtas Climate Committee’s pre-legislative scrutiny, she said.