Sinn Féin spokesperson on climate action Darren O’Rourke has said that it is “extremely disappointing” that Minister Eamon Ryan was “refusing to accept any of the opposition amendments” to the climate bill.

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 has completed committee stage this week, to move to report stage, then to the Seanad.

Deputy O’Rourke said it was particularly disappointing that the minister “refused to accept those amendments which aim to improve the very weak definition of just transition in the bill”.

The term ‘just transition’ is only mentioned once in the bill. A number of TDs put forward amendments which they say aimed to strengthen the definition.

In summary, the bill states: “the minister and the government shall have regard to the requirement for a just transition to a climate neutral economy which endeavours, in so far as is practicable, to – maximise employment opportunities, and support persons and communities that may be negatively affected by the transition”.

The Sinn Féin amendments in particular sought to define a just transition and just transition principles and to ensure the government adhered to them when preparing and considering Climate Action Plans, carbon budgets and the national long-term climate action strategy.

‘Significant gaps’ in climate bill

Furthermore, Meath East TD O’Rourke said that these amendments sought to ensure that government explained “how their proposals and policies are expected to affect different sectors, households, communities and regions and the ways in which the government would support them”.

The deputy said that there are “significant gaps” in the bill that must be addressed.

“Despite our amendments being pragmatic, reasonable and based on the approach in other jurisdictions, the minister outright refused to entertain them at committee,” the deputy said.

“His dismissive attitude is very disappointing and will not allay fears that the approach of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Greens to climate action will be punitive and hit those who can least afford it hardest.

“Previous policy decisions are testament to this, with the carbon tax for example, being imposed on people with no forethought as to how it will affect the poorest in our society.

“It’s not an optional extra for the transition to a climate neutral economy to be just or fair – it’s an absolute imperative, however the current draft of the climate bill does not adequately legislate for this.”

‘Merely pays lip service’

The Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action had 239 amendments to examine, proposed for inclusion in the climate bill.

Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore said that “this ‘government knows best’ approach is anathema to the formation of robust legislation”.

“The minister has claimed the climate bill will be ‘transformative’. It will be transformative in a negative sense unless a detailed definition of just transition forms a central component of the legislation,” the deputy said.

“As it stands, the bill merely pays lip service to the concept of just transition in entirely vague terms.

“If we want to take people with us, on our journey to a zero-carbon economy, we must ensure safeguards are in place to protect the most vulnerable.

“Just transition, at its core, means protecting workers whose industries will bear the brunt of this transition and ensuring marginalised households do not bear a disproportionate cost from these necessary changes.”