Ireland’s leading coalition of environmental groups welcomes the publication of the Climate Bill and the identification of fundamental issues within it during this period of pre-legislative scrutiny.
The Environmental Pillar is pleased to see the Bill strengthen the State’s commitment to climate action, and particularly welcomes the proposed inclusion of biodiversity expertise on future Climate Change Advisory Councils. 
The Pillar has stressed that the twin crises of climate and biodiversity are deeply interlinked and must be addressed simultaneously, so a voice for nature on the Council will be critical. 
However, there are some serious flaws within the Bill itself that must be rectified by the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action in its recommendations.
The Pillar is therefore asking the Committee to push for the following to ensure far-reaching, long-lasting and fair climate action:
- Language guaranteeing a Just Transition & thorough public participation
- Obligation to deliver on a more robust 2050 objective
- A reduction in the amount of ministerial & governmental discretion
The need for a Just Transition & stronger language
Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan himself said that there will be no transition unless it is just and that what the Bill sets in motion, “has to be done on the basis of social justice”.
However, despite the Minister’s sentiment, the term itself is not referenced in the Bill, which has been highlighted during pre-legislative scrutiny on numerous occasions.
We are urging Minister Ryan and the Government to put these words into practice and make sure the core components of a Just Transition are present throughout this landmark Bill.
The language within the Bill must also be substantially strengthened so that we deliver on our climate commitments.
The Bill uses the term “pursue” in relation to the 2050 objective of a climate neutral economy, which is considerably weaker language than the January Heads of Bill which used the term “pursue and achieve”. We are calling on the Committee to return the words “and achieve” to the Bill.
We are calling for the wording to be more precise in creating explicit duties for the Minister and the Government in order to ensure we meet our climate targets and that there is robust accountability. 
The Bill also provides for a considerable amount of ministerial discretion, where the Minister & Government are not obliged to rationalise or provide evidence for their decisions and their subsequent impacts. Therefore, it could compromise transparency and accountability.
It also does not protect against a future Minister who may not be as ambitious as is required.
Karen Cieselski, co-ordinator of the Environmental Pillar, said:
“We welcome the publication of this Bill and particularly the inclusion of biodiversity expertise on the Climate Change Advisory Council.
As we know, the Dáil declared a climate and biodiversity emergency last year, so it is encouraging to see the Government begin to recognise the scope of what is at stake within our natural world.
However, there are key elements within the Bill that are deeply troubling to us. They include the absence of any mention of a Just Transition, the weak language around the 2050 climate neutrality objective, and the amount of discretion available to the Minister of Climate Action.
We are calling on the Climate Action Committee to address these issues and look forward to reviewing the Bill once it advances to the next stage.”
Theresa O’Donohoe, Feasta and Environmental Pillar spokesperson, said:
“We welcome the publication of this crucial Bill and it is good to see that the fundamental flaws within it are being highlighted during this period of pre-legislative scrutiny.
Minister Eamon Ryan spoke passionately of the importance of a Just Transition during the launch of the Bill, but yet the term fails to appear within the text itself. This has now been highlighted to the Committee during pre-legislative scrutiny on numerous occasions.
The members of the Oireachtas Committee have enquired about public participation. It has been identified as integral to successful implementation of climate action but the Bill fails to legislate for any commitment to meaningful public participation.
There needs to be legislation compelling the government to ensure that the Aarhus convention is adhered to and the public are informed and facilitated to participate when all options are on the table, at national and local level. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 contains very useful provision in relation to public engagement.
We agree that what is proposed must be done on the basis of social justice, and it must be done with thorough public participation. This is why we are urging the committee to ensure that widespread, meaningful public participation and Just Transition be enshrined within the Bill so that the transition to a climate-resilient economy is inclusive, fair, just and equitable.”
Notes: The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2020 can be found at https://bit.ly/30IyKMz  The Environmental Pillar recently called for the State to prioritise the twin climate and biodiversity crises in the upcoming budget: https://bit.ly/3nBp54m  The 2015 Climate Act and an earlier draft of the Bill said the State was to “pursue and achieve” its 2050 objective, however, the version of the Bill published last week simply said the State was to “pursue” the objective. The text of the 2015 Act is available at https://bit.ly/3djVSX6 and the earlier draft of the Bill can be found at https://bit.ly/3iLTFop