Coalition partners Fine Gael and Labour are fast becoming the Laurel and Hardy of environmental regulation, with chaotic, contradictory and just plain wrong statements emanating from the government parties as they attempt to talk their way out of their shambolic non-position on tackling climate change.
Last week, Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes announced that ‘Ireland can meet 2020 emissions targets, according to the EU Commission’. Hayes claimed to have been told by EU Climate Commissioner Arias Canete that, allowing for flexibility mechanisms under EU rules, “Ireland is on course to meet its (2020) obligations”.
This statement may have come as a surprise to Commissioner Canete, whose actual report stated that while the EU overall would beat its 2020 emissions targets, “the report warned that Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg and Austria would miss the 2020 target”, according to Euractiv.
Within 48 hours of Hayes’ announcement that Ireland was on target to meet its legally mandated EU emissions reductions targets, his government colleague and Environment Minister, Labour’s Alan Kelly, admitted, in a newspaper interview ahead of the UN Global climate summit in Paris, that ‘it is no secret that Ireland is not going to meet the EU greenhouse emissions targets for 2020’.
Kelly went on to assert – incorrectly – that: “While we won’t meet the 2020 targets we are in a trajectory or a line that is going in the right direction”. Evidence from the EPA flatly contradicts Kelly’s view that Ireland is “going in the right direction”. According to the EPA’s latest emissions projections report: “Ireland is not on track towards decarbonising the economy in the long term in line with the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015 and will face steep challenges post-2020 unless further polices and measures are put in place over and above those envisaged between now and 2020.”
The chaotic double-speak being engaged in by Hayes and Kelly may best be explained by Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s own dazed and confused performance regarding climate, an issue he has chosen not to understand.
Having last year told the UN in New York that we need to show “conviction, clarity, courage and consistency” in responding to climate change, in reality, An Taoiseach has applied his political efforts to get Ireland off the hook for proposed EU fines that he said could reach as much as €5 billion. His breathtaking answer to Ireland facing EU emissions fines is: we won’t clean up our act, so just change the rules and give us a free pass!
Mr Kenny’s ethics-free approach to key environmental issues was again highlighted in a New York Times investigation on cynical lobbying by car-makers, which stated: “In the summer and fall of 2013, Ms Merkel pressed Brussels and succeeded in overturning an already concluded agreement on CO2 emissions, postponing some regulations until 2021….Ms Merkel was said at the time to have worked with Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister, on the lobbying effort”.
The crisis that engulfed the German car industry as a result of the WV emissions rigging scandal proves yet again the scope for corruption of politics and the huge damage to the public interest when our leaders cozy up to powerful special interest groups, be they car makers, the farm lobby or energy companies. Many thousands of Europeans will have died prematurely or suffered extreme ill health as a result of the cynical deception by the Volkswagen group of its nitrous oxide emissions.
Sadly, this deeply cynical approach to public health and environmental issues in the corporate sector appears to be the norm, not the exception, as underlined by recent revelations on how oil giant Exxon was told in the late 1980s by its own scientists that global warming as a result of fossil fuel burning would lead to global climate destabilization by the early 21st century. Scandalously, Exxon not alone failed to act on this information; instead, it actively funded and promoted climate denial for the last two decades.
How many millions more will suffer in the future as leaders like Mr Kenny continue to cosy up to special interests and engage in a dangerous game of delay-and-deny, rather than following the best scientific advice and acting decisively on the public’s behalf to tackle the deadly by-products of industrial society, be they nitrous oxide, CO2 or diesel particulates?
(Above is based on a press release I wrote and was issued on behalf of An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee)