“A quite extraordinary effort at reality denial for this crunch issue to have been completely overlooked by all the main parties as well as the mainstream media” This view of the treatment of the climate issue in the election debates up to this week was voiced by An Taisce’s spokesperson John Gibbons. This week we focus on his views and also on how some other environmentalists view the election.
John Gibbons, climate change writer and spokesperson for An Taisce
We have had the two flagship Leaders’ Debates, hosted by TV3 and RTE. In both debates, climate change – the biggest issue facing humanity – was ignored by the presenters and by the politicians made no mention of climate change or environmental issues. As RTE had flagged its first Leaders’ Debate as being about the “issues that really matter” John Gibbons says that the fact that RTE ignored the issue “speaks volumes for the station’s deepening crisis in both the quality and paucity of its climate coverage.” The climate change issue was also not one that was put to the candidates at the RTE Election Debate that took place at the Facebook headquarters on Sunday night.
As An Taisce’s spokesperson on climate, John Gibbons points out that while the outgoing government makes “much play of having introduced a Climate Act, its real priorities were made clear with the announcement this week that the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has just awarded 14 new licences for offshore oil and gas drilling. Given the imperative for all economies to rapidly decarbonise their energy systems in order to avoid the IPCC’s projected ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible’ impacts of climate change, how does the Irish government justify more drilling for oil and gas at the very time we need to fully commit to a low-to-zero carbon energy future?”
The climate change elements of various manifestos have been considered in further detail by John Gibbons. (See News & Events at http://www.antaisce.ie). Elsewhere environmental scientist Cara Augustenborg has published on her own website an in-depth analysis she has undertaken of the climate and climate related commitments in the various manifestos. (See News at http://www.caraaugustenborg.com). While some positive commitments on climate were identified in many of the manifestos there were also significant gaps and even contradictions in quite a few of them.
Many environmental groups including An Taisce have called on the political parties to make various commitments on implementing specific climate and environmental policies when elected. One of these groups is the Irish Forum on Natural Capital. The Forum says “We are losing nature’s services: stable climate, productive soils, clean water, pollinators etc. We need to sustain what sustains us”. The Forum is calling for the next Government to take an integrated approach to managing nature’s capital and ensure our commitment to account for natural capital by 2020 is met.
In John Gibbons’ own blog (www.thinkorswim.ie) he assesses the performance of the outgoing Government on the climate challenge. His ‘Climate Report Card’ comments conclude as follows “Little real engagement on climate. Promised little but delivered even less… Avoided a ‘fail’ by scraping in Climate Act”.
As we head towards the election of TDs and then the election of a Taoiseach it is important that the words of the Taoiseach when speaking at the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Change Summit in New York in September 2014 are recalled: “The hand of the future beckons, the clock ticks and we have no time to waste…Global warming is a stark reality that can only be dealt with by a collective global response. We are all interdependent and interconnected … we share a common humanity… and each of us must play our part.” John Gibbons concludes as follows: “We have no time to waste if political rhetoric is to be translated into real action commensurate with the existential crisis posed by climate change. Supporting parties who are sleepwalking into the catastrophic reality of climate change is probably the riskiest step any voter can take next Friday”.
(This above article was written in advance of the RTE One TV election debate on Tuesday, 23 February)
March event can be found here