An Taisce is calling on the Dáil to pass the climate bill this evening (Wednesday, July 14) “without last Friday’s amendments”.

On Friday (July 9) in the Seanad, the government introduced a series of amendments to the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021, which will be voted on in the Dáil later today.

The amendments give the environment minister “the ability, through regulation, to designate how the carbon budgets are accounted for and how the removals and the emissions reductions on the sinks are accounted for through this process”, according to Eamon Ryan.

‘A most significant deviation’

According to An Taisce, the amendments “have altered the character and ethos of the bill, radically shifting the emphasis from the scientific to the political”.

“Giving any minister the power to make regulations regarding the methods for counting greenhouse gas emissions or removals is a most significant deviation from the previous provisions in the climate bill,” An Taisce claimed.

“The amendments’ requirement that the Climate Change Advisory Council [CCAC] ‘shall comply with [government-defined] regulations’ is unacceptable.

“This undermines the independence and objectivity of CCAC, and reverses the direction of advice and information, with the government giving the CCAC advice instead of the other way around.

“A significant drafting error is being corrected in a new proposed amendment on foot of interventions by academics, climate activists, and others over the weekend. While this is welcome, it still leaves in place the minister’s powers to regulate, albeit more constrained.”

While Minister Eamon Ryan has issued verbal assurances that he will consult with the CCAC, under these proposed amendments, the council “would still be legally obliged to comply with any ministerial regulations, regardless of the science” An Taisce added.

‘Hasty’ climate bill amendments

Professor John Sweeney, a member of An Taisce’s Climate Committee said that Friday’s amendments “were clearly flawed and seriously erode the bill’s approach to measuring and monitoring greenhouse gas removals”.

“It would be preferable for them to be removed at this stage and for a purely scientific and established approach to be reinforced in the bill,” he said.

Professor Barry McMullin, also a member of An Taisce’s Climate Committee added that these last minute amendments were “hasty, ill-considered and risk seriously undermining the scientific integrity of Irish climate action”.

“Much better to omit, and allow CCAC to make properly independent, scientifically-grounded carbon budget recommendations, without subversion by sectoral vested interests,” he said.

An Taisce said that prior to the addition of these “problematic amendments” on Friday, the bill represented a “significant step forward” for climate action in Ireland.