Saturday 7 December 2019

Bruton under fire for 'cramming in' climate plan into just a few weeks

Climate Minister Richard Bruton.
Climate Minister Richard Bruton.

Caroline O'Doherty

Climate Minister Richard Bruton is under fire for cramming work on a crucial climate strategy into just a few weeks.

The last-minute approach to the country's plan for eliminating carbon emissions has left the public with only 15 working days to make submissions and officials with only nine working days afterwards to get the plan to Europe.

It comes even as the European Parliament yesterday declared a symbolic "climate emergency", heightening the pressure for action on global warming.

Environmentalists and climate campaigners have reacted with dismay to Mr Bruton's move.

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Dr Diarmuid Torney, who lectures on the politics of climate change at Dublin City University, said the approach undermined the whole principle of public consultation.

"It's almost worse than useless to do a public consultation like this. The department has known since the middle of last year that it was a requirement on the State to submit this long-term strategy by the end of this year so it has not come as a surprise," he said.

Dismayed: Dr Diarmuid Torney has criticised the haste of the move
Dismayed: Dr Diarmuid Torney has criticised the haste of the move

The strategy, the follow-up to this summer's Climate Action Plan, is meant to set out action for the 2030-2050 period that will get Ireland to a position of carbon neutrality.

It will affect all industries, public services and private households to a far greater degree than the current action plan.

It has become all the more important after the vote by the European Parliament to declare a climate emergency and formally commit to net zero carbon by 2050 with a 55pc reduction in emissions by 2030 as an interim target.

Submissions are due by December 16.

"This plan is about our vision for the future of the Irish economy and Irish society from a climate change and energy perspective. It's the kind of exercise that needs a really well thought-out public consultation," said Dr Torney.

"It's just very hard not to be extremely cynical about what's going on here. They either think they have all the answers already or they are just not taking this exercise seriously at all."

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan was also critical. "EU rules requiring this consultation were agreed a year ago," he said. "This is the key document which will determine our economic future."

The Department of Climate Action defended the short time frame, saying there had been numerous other consultations on similar issues already.

The European Union's declaration of a "climate emergency" yesterday was a symbolic vote that heightens pressure for action against global warming at an upcoming summit.

With increasingly erratic weather patterns, from wildfires in Australia to floods in Europe being linked to climate change, governments are under scrutiny to find urgent solutions at the United Nations' summit in Spain on December 2-13.

"It is not about politics, it is a matter of our common responsibility," said parliament's environment committee chairman Pascal Canfin of the Renew Europe group.

Dissenters objected to the word "emergency", saying it was too drastic and "urgency" would suffice.

Frustrated scientists and activists warn that despite such declarations, action is still lagging to hit the Paris Agreement target. However, the EU parliament's vote should help shape policies for the bloc's incoming executive head, Ursula von der Leyen.

The 28-nation EU is the first multilateral bloc to call a climate emergency, but joins numerous individual countries and cities from Argentina and Canada to New York and Sydney.

Irish Independent

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