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Climate Change law necessary for Ireland to demonstrate its commitment to become low carbon economy

Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security

28 October 2009

Ireland's policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now needs to be translated into legally binding targets, according to a new report, The Case for Climate Change Law, published today (October 28th) by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security.

Unless there is a clear regulatory framework supportive of Ireland meeting its EU and international commitments, Government, investors, emitters and consumers will not have a context within which to take behaviour changing initiatives, the report found.

The report includes the Heads of a Climate Change Bill which draws on many features of comparable legislation in other jurisdictions.

The Bill, which contains framework provisions, suggests new institutional arrangements, more transparency, greater accountability and policy formulation based on evidence-based research.

Climate change legislation would provide the certainty and continuity that is necessary to deal with global warming, according to Committee Chairman, Sean Barrett, TD.

Report author, Committee member, Liz McManus, TD said: "Due to the global, cross-generational importance of action to combat climate change the response must be cross-party. It must also inform policy making across all Government departments and it must extend beyond the five yearly Government election cycles. Climate change legislation would secure this approach."

"Unless and until Government, State bodies, businesses, farmers, employees and householders operate and live within a legal framework, including binding climate change targets, changes in personal and corporate behaviour that are critical if greenhouse gas emissions reductions are to become a reality will not happen at the pace required."

Among the core provisions of an Irish Climate Change Act outlined in the report and the Heads of the Bill are:

  • The setting of national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, including a long term 2050 target with reference to 1990 baseline emissions and interim (five-year) targets.
  • Setting of energy and electricity efficiency targets by 2020 and a methodology for setting targets beyond that date in a National Energy Efficiency Action Plan.
  • The setting up of an independent Climate Change Commission (CCC) with a clear advisory mandate and reporting requirements to the Oireachtas.
  • The setting up of an Office on Climate Change and Renewable Energy (as an extension of the remits of the Environmental Protection Agency and Sustainable Energy Ireland) under the auspices of the Department of the Taoiseach.
  • Nomination of the Taoiseach as the person with overall responsibility for climate change.
  • The determination and presentation of a multi-annual Carbon Budget.
  • The introduction of penalties (fines) for operators in the non-traded sectors who do not meet statutory targets.
  • Preparation of the National Climate Change Strategy (with reference to the SEI MACC report) and adaptations to same based on economic, social and scientific evidence.
  • The setting up of a Climate Change Dividend Fund, under the guidance of the Office on Climate Change and Renewable Energy, with responsibility for managing the disbursement of carbon tax and auctioning revenues as decided by Government.
  • Transferring responsibility for setting policy in relation to Ireland's Carbon Fund to the Office of Climate Change and Renewable Energy.

Deputy McManus said: "Regardless of what combination of political parties are in power, meeting the challenge set by climate change will be a central task for any Government. Co-operation is required both across the political spectrum and within Government structures. One of the obstacles that we have encountered is the lack of inter-departmental co-operation. Climate change legislation needs to facilitate and encourage a streamlined approach. In effect, it can ensure 'joined up' Government. The proposal that the Taoiseach become accountable for climate change targets is designed to ensure a cross-departmental approach and a dynamic for change. This approach has twin advantages in that the Taoiseach's authority extends across all departments and secondly, that the Oireachtas is engaged in the project by providing accountability at parliamentary level."

In order to tackle climate change we need both a 'top-down' approach from Government but also a 'bottom-up' approach from public bodies, local authorities, universities and individuals, the report concluded.

Please click on the link to view details of the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security

A full copy of the report is available at www.oireachtas.ie

For further information, contact:

Ciaran Brennan,
Houses of the Oireachtas,
Communications Unit,
Leinster House,
Dublin 2

P: +3531 618 3903
M: 086-0496518
F: +3531 618 4551
E: ciaran.brennan@oireachtas.ie

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