Keeping up with the Climate Bill


Amongst the news of the US election and of potential vaccines that will hopefully help end this twilight zone of social distancing we must not be deaf to the continuing reality of the climate and biodiversity emergency.

Hurricanes, wildfires, and bog slippage , which are all part of the complex story of climate change and destruction of natural ecosystems, are lurking in the news steadily reminding us that this crisis is not going anywhere.

These past few weeks have been particularly busy in the Irish movement for climate action. In a blog post last week, I discussed the recent quashing of planning permission for the Shannon LNG Port along with the need for stronger legislation to protect against carbon intensive infrastructure and projects. This week I would like to highlight how we can make this stronger legislation become a reality and concentrate on The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2020.

Hopes were high that this Climate Amendment Bill, which was published in October and has been subject to several weeks of pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA), would be the ambitious kick start needed for Ireland to transition into a carbon neutral economy. Unfortunately, as has been the trend, the Bill did not live up to these expectations. Careful reading of this Bill revealed a litany of loopholes and an overall lack of ambition and accountability across the entire framework. There is no mention of a Just Transition and Climate Justice is not defined which could lead to ambiguity and ambivalence.

Stop Climate Chaos (SCC) a civil society coalition, of which JCFJ is a member, has published a briefing to the Climate Action Committee outlining its recommendations of what amendments should be made to the Bill. These recommendations have been informed by the testimony of over a dozen expert witnesses, who came before the JOCCA in recent weeks. The Coalition says that the Bill must be revised so that its overall target is a robust, science-based, legally binding target for climate neutrality that represents Ireland’s fair share of effort under the Paris Agreement.

Over the next week the JOCCA will be finalising the amendments for the Bill and voting on their inclusion. This will be our opportunity, as citizens, to call for the JOCCA members as well as our TDs to make this the most ambitious and fair Climate Bill possible. This is not only our right as citizens but it is also an integral component of what Pope Francis terms ‘Caring for Our Common Home’. Laudato Si’ outlines the role “Civic and Political Love” (LS 228-232) plays in care for the planet.

“Love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world…. In this framework, along with the importance of little everyday gestures, social love moves us to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to encourage a “culture of care” which permeates all of society. When we feel that God is calling us to intervene with others in these social dynamics, we should realize that this too is part of our spirituality, which is an exercise of charity and, as such, matures and sanctifies us.” (LS 231)

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.