April 28, 2014

Urgent Call for Plan on Climate Change in Ireland

Pressure is mounting on the Government to produce a workable plan to tackle greenhouse gas emissions following the latest warning from experts that a major shift in attitudes and practices is needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.

The warning from the UN came on the same day Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte announced the abandonment of a controversial renewable energy project that would have seen more than 1,000 wind turbines erected in the midlands to export wind energy to Britain.


While the minister’s office stressed the decision to call time on the project was due to foot-dragging by British government on the deal and said it would not affect plans to increase wind energy usage within Ireland, the end of the deal raised questions about the direction of renewable energy policy here.

Mr Rabbitte will now face calls to publish the cost-benefit analysis carried out on the export deal, to allow scrutiny of the figures by opponents who claim wind energy is a false economy and does not significantly reduce carbon emissions.

He has up to now said the analysis could not be made public because of commercial sensitivity, but it is expected to be argued that this excuse no longer applies.

The formal end of talks with Britain on the project, after a week of high-profile diplomacy during President’s Michael D Higgins’ state visit, is expected to be raised at the weekly Cabinet meeting tomorrow.

The Cabinet is also scheduled to consider the main points of the long-awaited Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill, which places statutory obligations on the Government to meet emission reduction targets, provide regular progress reports, and appoint an independent advisory body to oversee strategy.
Campaign groups have urged the Government to get moving on the legislation.

Eamonn Meehan, executive director of TrĂ³caire, said: “The indisputable threat of climate change has been established, so it is time for the Irish Government to outline its plans to tackle this threat.”

An Taisce called for a strong legislative approach. “The Government must introduce an annual carbon budget which has a path to near-zero emissions by 2050,” it said.

Former president Mary Robinson, who heads a climate change foundation, said the UN report was a “wake-up call”. “We must heed the science and take urgent action that requires global cooperation,” said Ms Robinson. “Every one of us has a responsibility to act.”

The report, from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says global temperature change will exceed the critical 2C degree point unless carbon emissions are slashed in the next 15 years, fall by 70% by 2050 and reach zero by 2099.

Climate change expert, John Sweeney of NUI Maynooth, said: “What it’s saying is quite alarming. It’s saying that we have to decarbonise our society much, much more quickly than perhaps we thought.”

Environment Minister Phil Hogan, who wants the main points of the Climate Action Bill approved this week so that legislation can be drawn up by the summer, welcomed the IPCC report as providing the scientific basis on which to work towards mitigating climate change.

“Ireland remains engaged and committed, both domestically and internationally, to advance this work,” said Mr Hogan.


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