November 5th, 2017
The Citizens Assembly is set to make recommendations on how Ireland can lead in tackling climate change at the fourth and final session on the topic today.
The Assembly is sitting for the second weekend in Malahide, Co Dublin on the issue of climate change, yesterday hearing from experts in the areas of transport and agriculture.
Opening the final day, Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council, Professor John Fitzgerald said that we will not achieve our 2020 targets and will also struggle to meet our 2030 targets.
Prof Fitzgerald said that Ireland has a “long way to go if we are to be a leader” as we are the third highest producer of emissions per person in the EU.
Ireland is also one of only five EU Member States set to miss its 2020 emission reduction targets under the EU Effort Sharing Decision.
Policy Action Now
He said that while there is no “silver bullet” to bring down our emissions, there is an urgent need for policy action now.
While welcoming the inclusion of some of the Councils’ advice in the State’s National Mitigation Plan, he said that there are no concrete decisions in the Plan.
He called for a strong carbon tax which will send a “simple signal” to business and the public that “we should consume and emit less” while bringing in revenue for the state.
He also stressed that the state needs to stop subsidising fossil fuels, peat in particular. Peat extraction is subsidised by around €120 million every year through the Public Service Obligation (PSO) levy on electricity consumers.
We also need to reduce agricultural emissions and look into using our land mass for the likes of forestry to absorb carbon out of the atmosphere, Prof Fitzgerald said.
Carbon Tax on Agriculture
During yesterday’s session on agriculture, Trinity College Dublin Professor Alan Matthews said that Ireland should bring in a carbon price signal for agriculture.
Prof Matthews said that the carbon price signal would come in the form of a tax on excessive emissions or a subsidy to reward farmers who move to sequester additional carbon on their land.
A carbon price signal would lead to an agricultural sector that would “take account of our objective to reduce emissions”, Prof Matthews said.
He added that it would also incentivize farmers and research institutions to improve efficiency through improved grassland management, feed efficiency, and greater use of cover crops.
The Assembly will now meet to discuss the issues expressed over the two weekends and then make recommendations on concrete actions which it would like to see the State take in tackling climate change.
The Assembly secretariat prepared a draft ballot paper in consultation with the Expert Advisory Group based on the discussions over the two sessions.
The Members will now critically discuss its contents in their roundtables and the wording will be finalised in the public session this afternoon.
The recommendations that come out of this will form the basis of a report to go before the houses of the Oireachtas for debate.
If the Government accepts a recommendation, it will provide a time frame for the holding of any related referendum.
State must not Shirk Responsibility
Reacting to yesterday’s discussion, Labour Party spokesperson on the Environment, Senator Ivana Bacik, said that the State must not shirk from responsibilities and take bold policy steps to tackle climate change.
“The Earth’s climate has been changing rapidly, and its impact can be seen on a local and global level,” she added.
“There is a window of opportunity available to us, which we must act on now with a vision to create a greener, healthier, and more sustainable Ireland.”