One of the hardest things about actively advocating for caring for Earth, our common home, is keeping abreast of what is going on and knowing what needs support. Individual action is important but without generating momentum for the big, system-changing ideas the climate and environmental movement will falter.
These past few weeks have been particularly busy in terms of climate and environmental activity.
The Climate Amendment Bill and the EU vote on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are particularly important and it is vital to understand where the opportunities and the threats lie in each of these.
Climate Amendment Bill 2020
The Climate Amendment Bill 2020 was published earlier this month and is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny before the Joint Committee on Climate Action. Although the Bill contains elements that were sought after, it has unfortunately failed to live up to expectations. The Bill was meant to be a major step in the direction of a zero-carbon Ireland, providing a strong framework and mandate for ambitious climate action, and imbued with the principles of a ‘Just Transition’ and climate justice. Ireland’s experience of climate justice is chequered. As a wealthy country that has contributed significantly to the global environmental crisis, this lack of ambition and commitment to a just transition is alarming.
During this pre-legislative stage climate scientists and environmental law experts are invited before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action to give their expert opinion about the draft Bill. This process highlighted the ambiguities, flaws, loopholes and lack of ambition that are evident in the Bill. Dr Áine Ryall (University College Cork), Dr Diarmuid Torney (Dublin City University ), Dr Andrew Jackson (UCD’s Sutherland School of Law who instigated Climate Case Ireland) and Professor John Sweeney (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientist), all appeared before the committee to stress the importance of making this Bill stronger, less ambiguous, and more ambitious as well as facilitating public participation and dialogue.
Stop Climate Chaos, a climate advocacy coalition of which JCFJ is a member has also responded to the Amendment Bill with recommendations to close the loopholes.
The responsibility of making sure these recommendations make it into the Bill will fall on the Committee and afterwards on the Government when they vote it into law. Without this strong framework on which to build ambitious and inclusive climate action our path to a better and zero-carbon society is uncertain.
In these circumstances it is difficult to know what we as individual citizens can do. There are two simple actions that may make a difference which are available to us all. We can contact members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA) to petition them to make this Bill stronger in terms of climate justice. We can also get in touch with our local public representatives to make sure they are aware of the Bill and to inform them of our opinion on it.
The Future of CAP
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a major pillar of EU policy consuming around one third of the entire budget and is currently considered as being devastating for biodiversity, favouring large scale industrial farming to smaller scale ecological farming.
This policy is currently being voted on in Europe. This was hailed as ‘CAP for nature’ with a complete reform putting the protection of nature as well as the small farmer at the centre. It was also meant to be aligned with the biodiversity and Farm2Fork policies as well as the Green New Deal that have come out of Europe recently.
Unfortunately, last minute amendments have watered this once ambitious document into a business-as-usual policy that could devastate farmland biodiversity and have immense knock-on impacts on the state of our freshwater bodies.
BirdWatch Ireland, a fellow member of Stop Climate Chaos, has been advocating for a stronger CAP for years and is now leading a call for MEPs to vote this policy down and build a new one which has nature as well as the farmers who rely on healthy ecosystems at the centre.
In an echo of the call we make to politicians here in Ireland to amend the Climate Bill we now call on our MEP representatives to demand that they vote for a better CAP.
These civic actions are the more mundane realities of caring for Earth. When we practice them we are living in hope that we, communally, can help to protect and restore this beautiful planet, our home.