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Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore has welcomed the publication of the revised Climate Action Bill but says further safeguards are required in the legislation to ensure the 51% carbon emissions reduction target cannot be watered down.

Deputy Whitmore, who is the party’s spokesperson for Climate Action and Biodiversity, said:

“While I welcome the inclusion of specific emission reduction targets in the Bill on foot of the Oireachtas Climate Action Committee’s recommendations, I am concerned that reference to the 51% interim target by 2030 is only mentioned in relation to the drafting of carbon budgets by the Climate Advisory Council. It then must go the Minister and then Dáil Éireann for approval.

“My initial reading of the Bill suggests that there is potential at each of these stages for this target to be watered down.

“As this is a governance bill, it is imperative that safeguards are in place to ensure that no matter who is in Government, our targets cannot be changed and continue to be in line with the most up to date science and international climate action obligations.

“Therefore, for the sake of certainty and clarity, I would prefer to see the reference to 51% reduced emissions by 2030 in the main body of the Bill and repeated where necessary to strengthen this.

“I welcome the strengthening of the language in the Bill, which is very important for its implementation. References in the Bill to targets being consistent with the Paris Climate Agreement are also encouraging but references to just transition are weak, with no definition in place.

“I welcome in particular the inclusion of my amendments referencing just transition and nature-based solutions. However, these can still be strengthened, which I hope to do once the Bill goes through the Dáil. This was something I really pushed for as a member of the Climate Action Committee.

“The expansion of the Climate Change Advisory Council to include a broader range of expertise on just transition and biodiversity will be a key component in ensuring the success of this Bill. As we seek to meet our climate action commitments, it is vital that mitigation measures do not fall disproportionately on low-income households.

“However, it is crucial that where emission targets are referenced in the Bill, it is given the full force of the law and held up in the court of law. Only then can we ensure that this legislation can hold the Government to account on our climate action goals. Ultimately, these carbon reduction targets must be viewed as a baseline, not a ceiling.

“We must aim to be more ambitious than the legislation provides. I will be seeking further clarification on the matter of carbon emissions in the Bill and the necessary assurances from the Minister as it goes through the Dáil.”

March 23, 2021

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