Dr. Andrew Jackson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Law and Policy, Planning Law and Climate Change Law in the Sutherland School of Law, spoke before a Joint Committee of the Oireachtas where he illustrated downfalls in the government’s new Climate Bill. 

The Bill, set to combat global warming and to reduce carbon emissions, has received criticism recently as experts highlight concerns with the vague language and the lack of accountability and sanctions for missing carbon budgets.

Dr. Jackson noted a lack of any “sense of emergency from this Bill” despite the declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency last year. In January 2018, Leo Varadkar addressed the European Parliament where he admitted he was “not proud” of his country’s record as a climate “laggard”. He said later that year that Ireland is “nowhere near close” to meeting its climate goals.

Dr. Jackson described the bill as “very weak” when compared to climate laws adopted elsewhere. He referenced the language in the 2020 Bill that requires the State to “pursue” but not “achieve” the 2050 climate objective. To strengthen the 2020 Bill, Dr. Jackson recommended taking the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into account and for interim targets to be included to guide “the creation of carbon budgets on route to net zero.”

Dr. Jackson also called for the Bill to include clear duties that the Minister must follow to ensure that 2050 carbon targets are met at a minimum, and requiring the Government to rectify proceedings and compensate if a carbon budget or target is not met. 

Ireland is also one of the few member states expected to miss its EU emissions reduction targets for 2020. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests the country will fall far short of the 20% reduction from 2005 levels that were required, with a drop of either 5% or 6%. Therefore, Ireland is not on course to hit its 2020 EU targets until 2040. 

Jack O’ Gorman – Reporter