Climate change and the need to uphold the principles of climate justice are widely regarded as among the most significant and challenging issues currently facing humanity.
Increased levels of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, increase the amount of energy trapped in the atmosphere which leads to global impacts such as increased temperatures, melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea-level.
Nobody objects to a bit of heat and most people look forward to enjoying a fine summer this year but the downsides of increased temperatures include greater risks of severe winter weather, increased storminess, rising sea levels, flooding and economic ruin for some.
Under the EU Climate and Energy package for 2020 Ireland faces significant challenges in meeting its emissions targets for greenhouse gases. Our national binding target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. At the rate we are going it is anticipated that we are likely to see a reduction of a mere three per cent.
In anybody's book that must rate as disappointing progress especially since a significant portion of our reduction is due to the recession. Achieving three per cent falls far short of our target figure of 20 per cent.
The EC Country Report Ireland 2015 working document published a few weeks ago stated its disapproval with our progress as follows. 'No progress was made in identifying how Ireland commits itself to meeting its existing, binding climate and energy targets for the period up to 2020 in an integrated way and how best to use the earmarked, available EU support for the structural development needed in the different areas.'
The long-delayed Climate Bill (Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015) is going through Dáil Éireann at the moment three years behind schedule and the Environmental Pillar is calling on the government to strengthen the bill in light of sharp criticism for lack of action.
The Environmental Pillar is made up of 28 Irish environmental NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and is calling on TDs and Senators to amend the Climate Bill by making it more ambitious, more specific than general, having clearer definitions, setting explicit targets, etc. Agriculture and transport have been identified as the two sectors contributing most to the greenhouse gas problem and are therefore the two areas in need of most attention.
The 80-page EU report referred to above is available online at ec.europa.eu/europe2020/pdf/csr2015/cr2015_ireland_en.pdf and the issue of climate change is addressed on page 58.