Below, an article I ran in a well-known satirical publication in mid-June:
FOR YEARS, whiny environmental types have been warning repeatedly that the Irish state is treating its legally binding international obligations to cut our carbon emissions as a bit of a joke. This in turn has prompted indignant responses from both politicians and their civil servants to the effect that this was grossly unfair and that, given enough time, Ireland would surprise everyone.
And, in a sense, we have. Not even the gloomiest eco-NGO type could possibly have predicted that instead of cutting emissions by 2020 by 20% versus 2005, we would instead “at best” achieve a 1% cut. Or, put another way, we’ve squandered the last 15 years doing sod all about the biggest crisis in modern history.
Imagine that the Department of Finance set a key revenue target of €20 billion, but ended up only raising €1 billion. That might sound like an almost impossible level of incompetence, leading to mass resignations, but it’s precisely the degree of abject failure Ireland has shown on curbing carbon emissions.
Our hapless ‘climate action’ minister, Denis Naughten shrugged off the “deeply disappointing” EPA projections. Were he or anyone in Leo Varadkar’s cabinet even remotely serious about this issue, then Naughten would have either quit or have been fired as a result of the catastrophic failure he has presided over. That neither happened and the whole fiasco merited barely a mention in the media speaks volumes.
It’s not hard to imagine the quiet celebrations in the headquarters of business and farm lobby groups, Ibec and the IFA. Both have revolving door access to the corridors of power, and with budgets running into millions to lavish on lobbying for inaction and deregulation. Ibec alone spent €1.3 million last year just on its Brussels lobbying operation, a tidy sum that buys a lot of climate silence.
Naughten and his echo chamber of lobbyists all claim our 2020 targets were ‘unfair’ and too demanding. Scotland, in contrast, went for more than double our ambition, aiming to cut emissions by 42% by 2020. It hit its target six years ahead of time, and has now ramped them up to up 66% by 2030.
The magic difference between Ireland and Scotland? Political cojones. The last seven years of Fine Gael-led governments have been an unmitigated disaster for environmental progress. At the very moment most EU countries have stepped up, Ireland has skulked away. Naughten’s apparent incompetence is no happenstance. This is FG policy, writ large.
It’s not entirely unrelated that Ireland has the lowest percentage of its agricultural land producing vegetables in the entire EU, at barely 1%. As a result, we are a net importer of much of the produce that would grow perfectly well in Irish soils. The situation is almost as bad for organic farming, which accounts for just 1.7% of Irish land use.
Rather than seeing our agriculture sector’s massive over-dependence on ecologically damaging and emissions-intensive beef and dairy as a problem, Bord Bia, the Irish food board instead appears to have been spooked by the rise of vegetarianism and veganism.
In a new tender document, Bord Bia is looking for outside expertise to help it ‘convert’ those who have turned away from meat and dairy back to being regular consumers. It reckons one in 12 Irish people are now vegetarian, while one in 50 are vegan. Perhaps more worryingly, many more have, both for health and environmental reasons, sharply reduced their consumption of meat in particular.
The high-profile vegan advertising campaign focusing on the ethics of the beef and dairy sector has rattled the powerful agri-food industry, which clearly feels the state-funded Bord Bia is there to promote its marketing agenda, rather than to respond to emerging trends.
Bord Bia’s stated desire to “to win these consumers back” makes it clear which side of the argument it feels it represents. As if we didn’t already know.