The Irish government published it’s first climate change bill in 2015. This was superseded by the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2020. This post records my initial review of the combined bills.
- I couldn’t find a single document! There is a 2015 bill and the 2020 Amendment. So, you must read both at the same time. Sounds a little thing, but these are legal documents and it makes it harder than necessary. I suspect lazy civil servants or deliberate obfuscation. Not a good start.
The documents are not designed to communicate, so I started by developing a very simple concept model. It’s self-explanatory.
2. A couple of definitions:
a. “Carbon budget’ means, in relation to one or more greenhouse gases, the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are permitted during the budget period.
b. Parameters, Constraints and other Matters for Consideration relate to a catch all requirement for “Minister and the Government shall have regard to the following matters” which is a long list of possible constraints. More on this later.
3. When the term budget is mentioned, the first thing I look for is who is responsible. If you don’t have clearly, legally defined responsibility, it is likely the budget will be ignored. In my revised model below, I have added a link between Budget and Responsibility.
So who is responsible for some element of the carbon budget? I suggest making climate improvements needs wide awareness and responsibility which should include state bodies, semi state bodies, commercial and non-profit organizations as well as individuals. Of course, the responsibility and accountability will be highly variable. But we might have policies such as:
a. All enterprises and organizations over €Nm turnover to publish annual update of their Carbon footprint as a web service that can be accessed as public domain information and in annual accounts.
b. Calculated footprints to be published for each taxable business unit by geography and specific consumer products and services. E.g Electricity companies publish total and per Kw by service type.
c. Individuals to be given tools to understand their carbon footprint and made aware of opportunities and incentives to improve.
4. The bill identifies just two types of policy, climate and social justice. It’s notable that the social justice policy type was absent from the 2015 bill, and we can imagine that the Green party now in power had a hand in promoting this important category. But, why not go further and identify critical policy types.
First, the very absence of overall emissions reduction targets is astonishing. Simply stating climate neutral economy by the end of the year 2050 is not helpful. Is this net or gross? What intermediate staging? Targets for every 5 years? Why not emulate Sweden and state 2045? Then there are more detailed policy types. I suggest adding at the very minimum: taxation, incentives, governance, etc
5. Section 3 (3) states, “For the purposes of performing their functions under sections 4, 5 and 6 the Minister and the Government shall have regard to the following matters” which is then followed by a list of what I have modelled as Parameters, Constraints and other Matters for Consideration. If these items are sufficiently important to put into legal text, there should be explicit requirements stated. For example “the special economic and social role of agriculture” is a time bomb that, if left unchanged will potentially compromise implementation of the entire plan.
6. The functions of the Advisory Council are indicative of split responsibility. Lessons might be learnt from NPHET. Also from the UK which has a very strong, independent statutory body. The emphasis of the bill is overwhelmingly about how members are selected and the function of the Council is covered in just a few short lines at the end of a long section.
In summary, very disappointing. I will continue and review some other countries. I note the UK, Sweden and NZ have done good work in this area, and will do some comparisons.