Ministerial talk of climate change must lead to action

Cork Flooding By K.ristoff 200x150
Recent extreme weather can prompt a national conversation
7 February 2014: Friends of the Earth has welcomed the public discussion of climate change by Government ministers in response to the recent extreme weather and flooding. The environmental campaigning organization hopes it will prompt a national conversation about how our island nation responds to the climate crisis.
Commenting, Friends of the Earth Director, Oisin Coghlan, said
“Recent ministerial pronouncements on the reality of climate change are very welcome, but those words will ring very follow if the Government doesn’t follow up with robust action to cope with current climate change and to prevent it getting much worse.
“The task of climate action is best summarised as ‘managing the unavoidable and avoiding the unmanageable’. Unfortunately, in the 20 years since we ratified the UN climate treaty we have consistently dragged our heels on both counts. We are now beginning to see how unwise that is.
“The Government’s long-promised climate legislation, due before Easter, provides a great opportunity for a national conversation about how our island nation responds to the climate crisis”.
“The Government has tended to respond to climate change in a piecemeal, ad hoc, manner – whether it’s changing VRT, introducing the carbon tax, home insulation grants, support for renewable energy, or upgrading the grid.
“Government after Government has failed to lead a national debate on the climate change context for these policies. The public and interest groups respond to individual pieces of the policy jigsaw in isolation  – and without discussion of the real choices we face. We rarely talk about the picture on the front of the jigsaw box – the low carbon, climate-resilient future we need to build.
“For example, 10 years ago a Government consultation asked the question ‘would you like a carbon tax’. The resounding answer was no. But the question was false. At the time we faced a €600 million bill for overshooting our Kyoto emissions target. The actual choice was will we pay for climate action with a polluter-pays carbon tax or with your PAYE tax.”

The point of a climate legislation has always been to join the dots and provide a rationale framework for transparent and inclusive policy making.

The all-party Oireachtas committee on the environment recently produced a consensus report on how to strengthen and improve the draft climate Bill issued by Government last year. That is an excellent jumping off point for the debate we should have in advance of the Government’s revised Bill in two months time.