It's time for us to take climate change seriously
Published 01/12/2015 | 02:30
'Ireland is determined to play its part." Taoiseach Enda Kenny set out the Government's position at the Convention on Climate Change in Paris last night.Ireland is committed to the EU's collective target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40pc by 2030.
What is really needed, though, is a serious commitment from everybody at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework to be more ambitious.
The United Nations is saying that currently the commitments on the table are not enough to reduce global warming.
Within the fine print, Ireland claims that its agriculture sector has to be an exception to the rules.
To justify this special treatment, the logical action would be to go beyond the call of duty in sectors such as residential, building, transport and energy.
Make homes more efficient. Ramp up renewable energies.
Invest in public transport. Change building regulations.
Let's over-compensate in these areas.
Ireland is small enough to be an example to the rest of the world.
Yes, we are greener than other countries, but that's not enough in the world in which we live.
But this Government has not proven itself to be serious about climate change. The Climate Change Bill is only going through the Oireachtas now and gives two years of leeway.
During the previous five years, there were other priorities on the agenda, but there has been ample warning this was coming, so further delays are unacceptable.
The economic recovery is now bringing increased environmental pressures in areas like transport, housing and planning, which ought to have been foreseen and should now be on top of the agenda to remedy.
What we need is a new way of doing business.
Dialogue needed before law change on schools
Labour has signalled that it will promise to change the law to ensure a child's school place does not depend on being baptised in one faith or another. As a principle of equality it is difficult to argue with. But we must also counsel caution and common sense in this matter.
The issue is expected to be dealt with in Labour's upcoming election manifesto, the education elements of which are largely being shaped by Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan. The plan is to amend the existing exemptions allowed in the Equal Status Act, designed to preserve a school's ethos.
The party believes recent controversies have shown up situations in some parts of the country, whereby parents feel compelled to baptise their children against their own beliefs. But the promised law change comes with talk of doubling the number of multi-faith school places by 2020.
In government, Labour did not do too much to advance this cause. Now, as an election beckons, its stance has hardened.
That is its political right. But it comes with the risk of causing unnecessary tensions within the education system and not helping ongoing church-state relations.
A deal of dialogue among all concerned parties is required.