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File photo - Green Party leader Eamon Ryan
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie
File photo - Green Party leader Eamon Ryan Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Concerns over 'last-minute' changes to how carbon emissions are calculated under Climate Action Bill

Campaigners worry about what the late changes will mean for Ireland’s carbon budgets.
Jul 13th 2021, 9:30 PM 17,779 30

CAMPAIGNERS HAVE RAISED concerns over “last-minute” changes to the Government’s Climate Action Bill ahead of a Dáil hearing on the legislation tomorrow.

The changes revise how greenhouse gas emissions are calculated for different sectors, particularly around land use for agriculture, while also impacting the independent body charged with devising Ireland’s future ‘carbon budgets’.

The Government has been criticised for weakening the Bill, but spokespeople have defended the changes and said further amendments will be made to “shore up any uncertainty” when the legislation comes before the Dáil on Wednesday.

The Climate Action Bill commits to Ireland becoming carbon neutral by 2050 and contains provisions for legally binding emissions targets through the introduction of five-year ‘carbon budgets’.

However, campaigners aired concerns after a number of amendments were passed in the Seanad last Friday, including that the Government would take responsibility for determining how emissions are calculated, potentially without having to abide by international deals including the Paris Agreement.

One amendment would also require the Climate Change Advisory Council to “comply” with those government regulations which campaigners fear could compromise the body’s independence when setting out the country’s carbon budgets.

Independent senator Alice-Mary Higgins believes the council will be faced with “conflicting obligations” thanks to the “last-minute” changes.

‘Required to comply’

“The Advisory Council has to come up with the carbon budgets but now they’re also being required to comply with the regulations from the minister, and the danger is that the minister will not be faced by similar restrictions,” she said.

Environment and Climate Minister Eamon Ryan told media today that the Government will still have to honour Ireland’s participation in the Paris Agreement: “The amendments were put in place to make that more effective [and] make it work well.”

He also disagreed with suggestions that the Advisory Council would be weakened by the changes.

“Governments are the appropriate place to set the overall approach and that’s what we’ll do,” he said.

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Speaking separately, the Green Party’s climate spokesman Brian Leddin told The Journal that further amendments will be made tomorrow as a result of last Friday’s changes to the bill.

Wednesday’s changes will redraft subsections of the Bill so that it is still subject to international agreements, added Leddin.

This is in response to concerns that certain subsections would not be required to abide by pledges such as the Paris Agreement and will instead see the Irish government needing to follow EU methods for accounting emissions. 

“This will ensure that a future government that has no interest in climate action and is just making up its own rules around climate action and emissions to suit themselves is going to be bound by our agreements,” Leddin said. 

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Eoghan Dalton

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