Climate Bill: Will it be an adequate response?

This week the long awaited Climate Bill was published by the Government. It came a few days after NASA confirmed that 2014 was the hottest year since records began. The Bill sets out the intention of the Government to move Ireland to a low carbon economy by 2050.  The lack of specific targets for emission reductions in this proposed law has been criticised by many environmental groups. This week has also seen Pope Francis highlighting the issue of climate change. Here in Ireland the issue was also highlighted by a visit to Dublin by world famous climate scientist Dr Michael Mann.

The Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly TD said that the Climate Bill will involve ‘National Mitigation Plans’ which will set out how our national greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced. There will also be a ‘National Adaptation Framework’ which will outline the national strategy for adapting to climate change. The news was welcomed by the Government parties. A feature of the Bill will also be the setting up of an expert advisory council which will advise and make recommendations to the Minister for the Environment. This feature has been one of the criticism made by Oisin Coughlan of Friends of the Earth who said: “The Bill does not include a definition of low carbon, it doesn’t guarantee the independence of the Council, and it doesn’t include the principles of climate justice,” Climate scientist Professor John Sweeney of NUI Maynooth said: “The clock is ticking, alarm bells are ringing … but we’re pressing the snooze button”.   

In the past week, Pope Francis visited the Philippines. Just over a year ago Typhoon Haiyan caused widespread devastation and loss of life through a region of the Philippines.  The severity of the typhoon was attributed by many to the changing global climate. In a comment as he set out on his trip, Pope Francis said:  “I don’t know if it is all (man’s fault) but the majority is, for the most part, it is man who continuously slaps down nature.” Later this year the Pope plans to issue a major encyclical on climate change.

This week also saw the visit to Ireland of renowned climate scientist Dr Michael Mann of Penn State University. He is the originator of ‘The Hockey Stick’ – a simple, easy-to-understand graph which he and his colleagues constructed to depict changes in Earth’s temperature back to 1000 AD and which clearly highlights the current upward trend. His lecture in Trinity College outlined how he has responded to the disinformation that has been generated by the campaign to deny the reality of climate change. Commenting on the Climate Bill Dr Mann said that it was a “good starting point for debate”.

The warming of the planet is being caused largely by our use of fossil fuels – oil, coal, peat and gas. The ‘Fossil Fuel Divestment’ campaign takes the fossil fuel industry to task for its involvement in the climate crisis. The climate organisation is calling for organisations and in particular for universities and churches to divest from fossil fuels. On Saturday, 14 February, towns and cities across the world, including Dublin, will host events as part of Global Divestment Day.  More details on the event will be available in the coming weeks.

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