Irish diplomats and officials involved in intensive negotiations in Brussels over the past six months on how efforts to meet the EU’s climate change targets for 2030 should be shared out among member states would almost certainly have popped champagne corks after the European Commission announced final details of the apportionment this week.
The “special case” they made for Ireland, on the basis of our disproportionately high agricultural output, paid dividends.
As a result, not only has the overall emissions reduction target we need to meet in 2030 been cut from 40 to 30 per cent, but loopholes will allow burgeoning emissions from agriculture and transport to be offset by carbon sequestration and trading. The deal doesn’t even require us to save what’s left of our peatlands, a significant carbon store.
Given that Ireland is on course to breach EU target for 2020, largely due to recidivist inactivity by successive governments to curb emissions, there can be no confidence that we will meet the new 2030 target.
This is because the threats posed by global warming are not taken seriously by our political establishment. The draft national risk assessment is a mere token effort, compared to what is being done elsewhere, as An Taisce has pointed out. “This approach is defeatist, ignores current scientific understanding and misinforms policymakers, politicians and the public,” it said. By contrast, the voluminous UK climate risk assessment was the culmination of more than three years work by 80 experts and reviewers identifying more severe flooding as a major threat.
In many respects, Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to blame for not taking climate change seriously and, therefore, setting the wrong tone. As Green Party Senator Grace O'Sullivan told the MacGill Summer School, he is like the "lazy student who'd not opened a book all year [ASKING]the teacher, in this case the rest of the world, for an extension on his overdue essay".
Thus, special pleading “has often defined the Irish approach to climate policy, with requests for exemptions and derogations” rather than pursuing “innovative policy proposals and genuine action”, she said. The same approach would undoubtedly have been taken by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.
As the sales of new and used cars generated €978.4 million for the Exchequer in the first half of this year – 28.5 per cent higher than the same period in 2015 – transport emissions will continue to rise, and the same goes for agriculture and buildings.
Even the Government's Rebuilding Ireland - Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, with its "multi-stranded, action-oriented approach", has almost nothing to say about the energy efficiency of the 25,000 new homes that it expects to be built annually by 2030. That, in itself, is a measure of Ireland's complacency about climate change.