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Jesuit Centre: Ireland’s climate targets too lenient

The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice has claimed that Ireland’s 2030 climate targets will do little to tackle the growing social and environmental injustice associated with climate change.

Catherine Devitt, Environmental Justice Officer with the Centre, was responding to the European Commission’s recent publication of its 2030 target calculations for each Member State. Arising from intense lobbying by government and agri-food interests in Brussels, Ireland has been awarded significant concessions which effectively reduce its 2030 target to a 20.4 per cent cut in emissions. This is just slightly above the 2020 target of 20 per cent. According to Ms Devitt, “Ireland has the third highest per capita emissions in Europe. Any claims of seriousness by the Government towards tackling climate change have been significantly undermined by the level of complacency, bargaining and special pleading concerning the allocation of reduction targets.”

She adds:

Ireland’s 2030 targets have been described by some as ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’. Yet, looking through the lens of climate justice; genuine fairness would seek to be as ambitious and urgent as possible in cutting our emissions. While the targets might be good news for some people, in particular, agri-food interests, the news fares less well for the world’s poorest, whose lives and livelihoods are already at risk because of climate change. We are also actively gambling with the health and wellbeing of future generations.

Due to rising emissions from the agricultural and transport sectors, Ireland is one of only two EU Member States currently on-track to miss it 2020 obligations. Furthermore, Ms. Devitt asserts that the deal presents a missed opportunity for Ireland to tackle serious socio-environmental issues at a national level:

More stringent targets would have provided a real and timely incentive to address poor air quality in our towns and cities by lowering emissions from transport, and an incentive to address issues such as fuel poverty by reducing emissions from the residential sector.

Under the 2030 package, afforestation and other land-use activities can now be used to offset rising emissions. Intensive agriculture and afforestation present significant threats to Ireland’s biodiversity, and Ms. Devitt highlights that there is a lack of environmental and social integrity in policy approaches that are currently being implemented. Referring to a recent report that highlighted the climate and ecological costs of Ireland’s agricultural and afforestation policy, Ms. Devitt points out that:

Progressive action on climate also provides an opportunity to halt the decline of our water systems, and protect our diminishing biodiversity. The current package means that we can continue to destroy our uniquely important peatlands and cultural heritage.

Ms. Devitt argues that the response among some sectors in Ireland, to our 2030 target reflects the insularity of our approach to the climate crisis, as well as the intentional failure to accept our moral responsibility to take real and meaningful action:

In the crucial decades that lie ahead, we will have to achieve full decarbonisation. Ireland will be totally unprepared. The social and economic costs of inaction will be much greater in the long-term.

Earlier this month, UN Special Envoy on El Niño and Climate, Mary Robinson, visited Ethiopia to witness first hand, the experiences of those most affected by climate change. During her visit, Mrs. Robinson reminded us that “the impacts of climate change hammer home the fact that we are interconnected”, and called on the international community to be “steadfast in its determination to stay at the forefront of climate action”.

Ms. Devitt concluded by saying:

Mary Robinson’s words echo those of Pope Francis, who in his encyclical on society and the environment, reminds us that the climate is a common good, ‘belonging to all and meant for all.’5 Acknowledging this common good requires Ireland to see beyond its own national interests. Although there is considerable potential for Ireland to become a leader on climate action, unfortunately we are clearly failing in this regard.

For further information or interview please contact:
Catherine Devitt, 01 855 6814
Environmental Justice Officer, Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice (JCFJ)