Climate Action Plan

Sir, – Climate action is an issue on which it is essential that citizens can receive reliable information from trusted media, especially in this era of “fake news”. On August 4th, The Irish Times published an article in which it launched a savage attack on the Climate Action Plan which I published. This attack was entirely based on the false contention that this plan had been struck down by the Supreme Court.

The view of the Editor of The Irish Times is that despite the fact that the entire foundation of the article is false, it still constituted an “honest opinion” of the writer. One would have thought that to be honest, an opinion would need some reasonable foundation.

While admitting in a correction that it had been factually wrong about the plan before the Supreme Court, The Irish Times inferred that the verdict could be validly applied to an entirely new plan published by a different Minister. No such inference can be validly made.

The Climate Action Plan has introduced key innovations demanded by civic society: a new legally binding climate law; five-year binding climate budgets; specific targets for each sector with consequences for failure; a new powerful Oireachtas Committee to hold Ministers to account; and over 180 specific actions monitored by a delivery board chaired by the Taoiseach’s Department, to be reviewed annually to stay on track to the 2030 target. It was welcomed by Friends of the Earth upon its publication and by the Climate Change Advisory Council, which had criticised the 2017 plan. Indeed this very paper took a view that it marked “real progress” with “radical” elements.

None of this was assessed when The Irish Times writer offered the opinion that the plan is “bullshit”, not an entirely scientific appraisal. The article betrays no evidence of having so much as opened a page of the plan so robustly condemned. The only grounds offered is an EPA projection that the 2030 target would be missed, but this too referred to the plan before the court. The Irish Times did not refer to the updated EPA projections based on “Bruton’s Climate Plan” which state: “Ireland is projected to meet non-ETS EU targets over the period 2021-30. This assumes the full implementation of the 2019 Climate Action Plan.”

I have a record of rigorous standards in policy making in the four ministries which I have been fortunate to hold over my career, and I took the greatest pains to create a plan which would give momentum to Climate Action.

To put words in the mouth of the Chief Justice is unusual at any time, it is hazardous when done in error, it is perverse to persist even when the error is pointed out, but it is unforgivable on a matter of such grave importance to future generations, on which citizens must have the evidence fairly presented.

In the era of fake news, the truth will always arrive late and be less eye-catching, as it has here. That is why we depend on editors to apply standards. – Yours, etc,


Fine Gael TD

for Dublin Bay North,

Leinster House,

Dublin 2.