Climate bill 'lacks ambition' despite record temperatures
It will be two years before the Government finalises a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent dangerous climate change.
The long-awaited climate change bill has been criticised as lacking ambition, with the Green Party warning that it fails to set out long-term targets to reduce emissions and effectively amounts to "vague aspirations" which will undermine investment and confidence in the development of a greener economy.
The 'Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015' sets out how Ireland will move to a low carbon, environmentally sustainable economy up to 2050.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly said it gave a "solid statutory foundation" to allow Ireland meet EU and international targets, with five-year National Low Carbon Transition and Mitigation Plans setting out the measures needed across each government department
"It is important that developed countries such as Ireland provide leadership in terms of their contribution and the framework underpinned by this bill will enable such a response to be developed well into the future," Mr Kelly said.
"No specific climate change legislation has ever been enacted in Ireland. I intend to rectify that lacuna now to ensure that Ireland's response to climate change is consolidated and that our long-term planning for future mitigation and adaptation is underpinned by statutorily robust operational arrangements."
But the bill was criticised by environment groups, including the Green Party, Trocaire and umbrella group Stop Climate Chaos, which said it failed to provide a definition of what a low-carbon economy was and did not guarantee that a Climate Advisory Council, to be established to help drive policy, would be independent.
"This legislation is urgent, Ireland is already off-track and without climate action plan. It's now up to TDs and senators to fix this bill and pass it into law as quickly as possible," Stop Climate Chaos spokesman Oisin Coghlan said.
Aid agency Trocaire also criticised the bill, with executive director Eamonn Meehan saying a national mitigation plan would not be produced until 2017.
"The Government has responded to the news that 2014 was the hottest year on record by cooling its commitment to tackling climate change," he said.
The bill is being published in advance of crunch climate talks in Paris next November where it is hoped to strike a global deal to tackle emissions.
The Green Party said there would be "no climate policy in the lifetime of this Government".