The Climate Change Response Bill 2010 is dead….long live the climate bill

The prospects for the Green Party’s Climate Change Bill 2010 may have collapsed along with the Republic’s coalition, but the prospects for even stronger climate change legislation in a new Dail are not being ruled out.

The Green Party’s Climate Change Response Bill finally bit the dust today when it was dropped from the Senate’s agenda. The Bill had been due for its second-stage debate and vote.

The environmental lobby, led by Friends of the Earth Ireland, will now use the Election campaign to focus attention on all-party support for an earlier climate change bill – drafted by the Oireachtas Climate Change Committee and published at the end of 2010. They’ll endeavour to have the alternative bill pass into legislation before the next big UN climate change summit in December, in Durban.

The ill-fated Green Party Bill was to have been a centrepiece of the Party’s achievements in the coalition Government, providing the framework for a “sustainable, low-carbon and low-oil economy”.  Caught in the crossfire as trust and working relations collapsed within the coalition over the past few weeks, the Greens’ Climate Change Response Bill 2010 turned out to be a compromise and was actually weaker, in some respects, than the bill drafted by the all-party Oireachtas Climate Change Committee.

Differences over the Climate Change Response Bill led to renewed speculation about the survival of the Fianna Fail-Green coalition Government just before Christmas, with a “stand-off” over the greenhouse gas reduction targets set out in the Bill i.e. 20% by 2020 compared to 2005 emissions. The proposed legislation would have rendered the Government accountable for the reduction targets.

Fianna Fail backbenchers from rural constituencies had come under pressure to resist the targets following intensive lobbying by IBEC and the Republic’s farming and agri-business lobbies. The IFA, in effect, launched a “pre-emptive power play” to have agriculture excluded from any climate change legislation in the next Dail; while IBEC set out to frighten the horses by claiming that the targets in the Bill went beyond the EU’s climate commitments. Anyway, the Soldiers of Destiny were in no mood to concede much to the Greens in recent weeks, with one Deputy commenting: “This will be a nice way of giving them [Greens] a bloody nose.” In fact the targets set out in the Greens’ Bill were no more stringent than commitments already undertaken by the EU.