The new Climate Council’s first Report was released last week and has important news for all of us. We look at the report and some reaction to it. We also feature what the coalition of groups known as ‘Stop Climate Chaos’ says needs to be happen immediately if we in Ireland are to play our part in dealing with the greatest threat facing humanity. This comes as the Paris Climate Agreement comes into effect and the next round of UN climate talks begin in Marrakesh.
The Climate Change Advisory Council is an independent advisory body tasked with assessing and advising on how Ireland can achieve the transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy. In the first report of the Council its chair Prof John Fitzgerald said that Ireland should aim to have “no further negative influence on the Earth’s climate system by the middle of this century”. Not surprisingly the report goes on to say that Ireland may not meet its 2020 targets and may not be on a pathway to meet its 2050 goals. Ireland’s national goal of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions and carbon neutrality in agriculture will require “major societal and economic transformation. Ireland’s progress to reduce emissions they say are “at best mixed” and add that they are of “considerable concern”
Prof John Fitzgerald
On specific sectors the report highlights the benefits for everyone of energy retrofits to homes with health and cost-of-living benefits as well as emission reductions. The Council emphasises that “progress in tackling transport emissions has been very limited” and highlights that “agriculture will need to outline a pathway to [carbon] neutrality in 2050”.
A SERIOUS WAKE-UP CALL
Friend of the Earth’s Oisín Couglan welcomed the report but said that it should come as a “serious wake-up call for the government,” He goes on to ask: “Does it fully capture the urgency if we are to fulfil the goals of the Paris Agreement? No. But this is a good day for transparent, evidence-based policy-making. The report is a serious-minded effort to frame the climate action challenge for Government. We’ll see when the Government publishes its draft action plan are they up to that challenge.”
A RAPID AND JUST TRANSITION TO A CARBON–FREE FUTURE
According to Stop Climate Chaos there are a number of immediate decisions that the Government can make to show it is getting serious about climate action. We reproduce the Group’s three proposals below.
- Enabling community ownership of renewable energy
As a first step we’re demanding the Government guarantee a fair payment for solar electricity so that people get paid for the excess energy they generate with panels on the roofs of their homes, farm buildings, schools, clubs and community halls, and from the electricity generated in solar farms, rather than having to give it away for free.
- Divesting taxpayers’ money from fossil fuels
To continue to invest in fossil fuel companies is to encourage and enable their plans to continue to explore and extract more and more fossil fuels – when even burning all that we already have would make the Paris commitments impossible. Divesting the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) from fossil fuels and adopting a 100% renewables investment policy for energy investments by the Fund is the responsible and the moral option. These should be key recommendations emerging from the ongoing review of the ISIF investment strategy.
- Achieving the goals of the Smarter Travel policy
Transport is the only sector where emissions are still higher than they were in 1990. They almost tripled from between 1990 and 2007. They are rising again quickly now. We are calling on the Government to commit the resources needed to achieve the goals of the Smarter Travel Policy for 2020. That means at least 20% of transport funding to go to walking and cycling and at least 50% of transport funding to go to public transport.
In conclusion, Stop Climate Chaos says that ultimately, the measures we adopt need to add up and need to be consistent with a decent chance of limiting global warming to well below 2°C. The group says that nobody is asking Ireland to do more than its fair share but “we do expect Ireland to do its fair share.”