When the Government last year issued its overdue National Mitigation Plan (NMP) to cut emissions and adopt renewable energy, it was billed as the main strategic response to a disgraceful situation: Ireland was (and still is) unique in Europe in the scale of failure to meet both emissions and renewable energy targets. If anything, the picture is worse today than then.
The plan was heavy on proposals, light on actions. Less than a year later, Minister for Climate Action Denis Naughten has been forced to admit it needs radical overhaul. His inaction, given the immediate verdict of the Government's own Climate Change Advisory Council and climate scientists, who had warned more needed to be done urgently, amounts to a gross failure to respond to an emerging crisis.
That failure has reduced the chances of getting the approach right for coming decades, as a new NMP has to be incorporated into a detailed plan on climate and energy to be submitted to Brussels in a matter of months. We are nowhere near being on the right trajectory to decarbonise Ireland by 2050. Undaunted, the Government is making big play in declaring one fifth of the new National Development Plan – €22 billion – is about to be spent on climate measures, while the minister has repeatedly highlighted new supports and incentives intended to transform the energy sector.
But in circumstances where emissions are predicted to rise up to 2020 and probably beyond, the Government needs to abandon reliance on what the Green Party has called its “sprawling and unsustainable development model”, typified in its short-sighted approach to transport and agriculture.
Scientists continue to show unequivocally that human-induced climate change is tightening its grip. The Irish public, stung by the effects of recent extreme weather events, is increasingly aware that global warming impacts are coming to their doorsteps. Against that backdrop, they will be a lot less forgiving when it comes to politicians touting incoherent and weak climate policy.