Ireland has a moral and legal duty to take the lead on the climate


In mid-July, the European Commission will publish its “Fit for 55” proposals. They will outline how the EU’s climate policy framework will be revised to ensure that the Union can deliver on its new commitment to achieve at least 55% emission reductions by 2030 and climate neutrality. by 2050 at the latest. It will be a historic moment.

This is the moment when the EU decides between a smooth, fair, cost-effective and orderly transition in which all countries move together – sharing the responsibility for taking scientifically informed action on climate and dividends from a country. net zero economy – or a disruptive and much more costly transition that could amplify the drivers of political fragmentation and even challenge the very logic of the EU itself.

This crucial political debate offers Ireland a unique opportunity to show international leadership and demonstrate that it has finally turned the page on climate action. Despite its small size, Ireland’s voice is heard in Brussels. It is important to be clear on these key questions, a circumstance underlined by a masterclass on Michael McDowell’s misunderstanding recently published in these pages.

Getting the EU to a smooth and cost effective net zero will require the Irish economy and its counterparts across Europe to evolve rapidly

As developed nations, EU countries have a moral and legal duty to take the lead on climate issues. To make the EU a smooth and low-cost net zero, the Irish economy and its counterparts across Europe will need to change quickly, drastically and irreversibly. It will also require governments to adopt a ‘mission mindset’ to unleash states’ unique capacity for policy innovation, market creation, problem solving and public engagement – a political dynamic. which will be crucial to achieving a net zero economy 30 years from now at the latest. Transformation on this scale will, by definition, be a deeply political process and must be ‘owned’ at the national level, as success will fundamentally depend on sustained political leadership, strong public support and political will. whole government to consider the transition to net zero. nothing less than a national mission.

Although the EU has taken an important step in agreeing to adopt a climate law committing the Union to achieving climate neutrality, this legislation is silent on the quality and effectiveness of national provisions for the development of climate change. climate policy. Member States at an individual level are not required to achieve net zero under EU law. This allows those who have not adopted a national net zero pledge to distance themselves from the responsibility for taking sufficient and effective climate action and to continue to believe that it is the responsibility of other governments. Achieving a low-cost, orderly and rapid transition to net zero within the EU will require an urgent solution to this lack of national ownership, which is at the heart of EU climate policy.

Ireland is, however, part of a critical mass of European countries that have outstripped the EU in the years since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015 and put in place a national climate law 2050 and institutions of support. These have the function of fostering the conditions conducive to national ownership of the duty to take scientifically informed climate action. National provisions vary from country to country, but it is becoming clear that European ‘climate law countries’ are already meeting or exceeding their existing EU climate targets – or like Ireland, are resetting their national ambition.

Although the first version of Ireland’s national climate law is very weak, it did some important things. The legislation recognized Ireland’s responsibility for implementing the Paris Agreement and created an advisory body of independent experts whose annual reports provided a transparent and reliable analysis of the seriousness of the country’s inaction. Ireland on the climate. In addition, it provided a legal framework which enabled an Irish NGO to successfully challenge the government’s national mitigation plan as illegal, as the plan did not explain how it would meet the 2050 target of the Law on the climate. In parallel, the highly innovative Irish Citizens’ Assembly on Climate provided a first-rate demonstration of how citizens can and should be involved in a more nuanced discussion about the real policy options for climate action, which is now copied by countries across Europe.

The Union’s ‘Fit for 55’ debate should not be seen by Ireland as a large-scale EU technocratic process

These developments have led the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action to undertake a fundamental cross-party inquiry into what steps the government should take to bring Ireland’s climate law into net zero. This process served as the basis for the fundamental overhaul of this legislation, which is underway, and fostered the political will within the national political system to support the proposed reforms.

As a result, Ireland’s Climate Act 2015 is swept away and reconstituted through a wide range of parliamentary amendments that open the door to real progress and strengthen Ireland’s national ownership of the climate goal. from Paris. These changes include a legally binding net zero target for 2050, an ambitious target for 2030 and a strengthened mandate for the Irish Expert Advisory Body and the Oireachtas. A new Just Transition Commissioner has also been appointed – one of the first attempts in Europe to make specific arrangements designed to ensure that the national transition is fair.

Together, these changes place Ireland in a leadership position – not only within its own borders, but in a way that can help build and lead a coalition of like-minded European climate law countries. . These countries must be at the forefront of realizing the important lessons they have learned about the role that national climate laws and supporting institutions play in promoting political leadership and public support for meaningful climate action, and how these lessons can be applied by the EU to ensure that the EU-27 is fit for net zero.

The ‘Fit for 55’ trade union debate should not be seen by Ireland as a large-scale EU technocratic process. This debate is addressed directly to Ireland, in particular to its governing institutions. And Ireland must respond.

The national ownership gap at EU level, where Member States have not yet adopted the appropriate and necessary level of national ownership in relation to the EU’s targets for 2050, asks Ireland whether it can maintain the national mission mindset necessary to maintain national ownership of its climate agenda, and build a coalition of EU member states seeking to do the same.

Now is the time for Ireland to say yes.

Sharon Turner is Visiting Professor at the University of Sussex and Expert Consultant to the European Climate Foundation. Thomas L Muinzer is Senior Lecturer and Co-Director of the Energy Law Center at the University of Aberdeen. Dr Ciara Brennan is Director of Environmental Justice Network Ireland and Lecturer at Newcastle University


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