Ireland’s carbon budgets for the coming years must be fair. That was the key message from a range of organisations in statements to the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action on Thursday.
Limits on greenhouse gases
This is the first time Ireland has set limits on greenhouse gas emissions within periods of time. When the Climate Act passed last July, the concept was embedded in law. Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said later that the first two five-year carbon budgets would equate to a total reduction of 51 per cent emissions over the period to 2030. This is in line with EU targets.
The Climate Change Advisory Council set out its carbon budget up to 2025 in late October. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action held three meetings with stakeholders to consider the budget.
The first carbon budget outlines year-on-year reductions of 4.8 per cent to 2025 with an 8.3 per cent drop expected between 2025 and 2030.
On Wednesday, a range of experts said the plan falls short of what’s needed to tackle the climate crisis.
And on a third day of stakeholder meetings, the Oireachtas committee was told the proposed Climate Change Advisory Council budget must have equity and a just transition at its core.
Michelle Murphy from Social Justice Ireland said: “It’s essential every sector makes a contribution to this effort.
“If Ireland is to succeed the pathway to doing so must be built on a consensus, must be well managed and properly evaluated… in order to ensure that the move to a sustainable future for all is fair and successful.”
Friends of the Earth Ireland director Oisin Coghlan said he too thinks “the issue of fairness needs to be central”.
“Fairness between countries – and that is global climate justice – fairness between generations… a fair and just transition protecting the vulnerable and fairness between sectors.”
Irish Farmers Association president Brian Rushe agreed. He added: “Irish farmers are… committed to playing their part in reducing emissions, however, this must be done in a fair and balanced way.”
Chambers Ireland chief executive Ian Talbot told the committee: “Chambers Ireland hopes the carbon will be the tool that finally spurs us into action.”
While Macdara Doyle from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions called “for a new mandatory requirement that every sectoral emissions ceiling is accompanied by a comprehensive employment impact report”.
“It’s imperative that the overall transition and decarbonisation process is underpinned by engagement and dialogue especially with workers and communities positioned at the front line of the change,” he said.
Speaking after all the evidence was heard, Fine Gael’s Alan Farrell TD said: “No sector can remain doing what they’re doing at the moment – we all have to change. If we don’t, we simply defer the inevitable.
“In order to achieve that it’s very clear to me we have to step up our role in the Oireachtas and as a government to fund those changes.”