Ireland must face the concrete challenge head-on of halving our emissions in the next ten years in order to meet the ambition laid out in this week’s revised Climate Bill, Ireland’s leading coalition of environmental groups has said.
The Environmental Pillar welcomed the Bill’s publication earlier this week and recognised it as a crucial first step in finally addressing the scale of the climate and biodiversity crisis at hand.
The Bill legally binds Ireland to reaching climate neutrality by 2050 and commits to a 51 percent emissions reduction by 2030, a figure initially proposed in the Programme for Government.
The transformation required to meet this moment will be immense, and with the right policy in place, it is one that can be positive for both people and planet.
By taking fair and just climate action, we can have cleaner air and better public health outcomes. We can live and sleep in warmer homes. We can use greener electricity sourced from wind and solar, all the while creating new, well-paying jobs.
As we take these measures we must also work alongside and restore nature.
The vast majority of our natural habitats are in an unfavourable state and over half of our water bodies are polluted. Our current forestry model is broken and has become a source, rather than a sink, of carbon emissions. We must focus on creating a close-to-nature, stable forestry model that focuses on native species and does not come at the cost of high nature value habitats. 
Steps we take to reach climate neutrality can help remedy these ills on our natural environment, and indeed they must as the Bill commits to achieving a “biodiversity-rich” economy by mid-century and restore the biodiversity that we have.
This transition will see change coming down the road for every person in Ireland and thus every person must be able to have the opportunity to plan for that change. The government must go well-above and beyond the usual format for consultations and guarantee that they reach every community in Ireland so that we have a unified vision and commitment to climate neutrality.
The Environmental Pillar is also hopeful that the ambition outlined in this legally-binding Bill will drive a much-needed overhaul of agriculture policy.
The drafted version of the Agri-Food 2030 Strategy seen by the Environmental Pillar was yet another industry-led business as usual roadmap to destruction, and failed to even remotely acknowledge, let alone meet, the challenge at hand. It went against everything we campaigned for, and we could not in good conscience put our name behind it and subsequently left the Strategy. 
The publication of this revised Bill shows that the building momentum for climate action can affect change. We are urging the Government to make sure it delivers on these targets by taking the Agri-Food 2030 Strategy back into its own hands and subsequently pursue a policy that works for small farmers, nature, and our climate obligations.
We will be releasing our own policy recommendations on how to do just that over the coming days, and we look forward to engaging with Government and stakeholders on the issue.
Karen Cielsielski, co-ordinator of the Environmental Pillar, said:
“This revised Climate Bill has raised our climate ambition and put this scaled-up framework into law. We need to meet this moment and are now required by national and EU law to do so.
The momentum is well and truly behind climate action, and we need to make sure we implement it quickly and fairly.
Each sector will have to play its part in transforming our economy and society, and this includes agriculture.
If we are to meet these targets outlined in the Bill, we need an agricultural model that operates within our planetary boundaries and champions small farmers.
We know we can get there, and it is now up to the Government to put us well and truly on that path by taking the Agri-Food 2030 Strategy back into its own hands.”
Notes: More than half of our rivers, lakes and estuaries are in an unhealthy state (47%, 50% and 62% respectively) and river water pollution is on the rise. Additionally, the number of pristine rivers has dropped from over 500 in the late 80s to a mere 20 today according to the EPA: https://bit.ly/2S9xMVf
85 percent of EU protected habitats have a “bad” conservation status according to the latest report from the Irish government to the Commission and 70 percent of these are negatively impacted by agriculture: https://bit.ly/3rq3Hzz Last month the Environmental Pillar left the Agri-Food 2030 Strategy having reluctantly come to the conclusion that the Draft Strategy was woefully inadequate to meet the social and environmental challenges at hand: https://bit.ly/3tVxQc2