Earlier today, at a very well attended press conference in Leinster House, the all-party Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change and Energy released their report, ‘The case for a climate change law’.
Committee rapporteur, Liz McManus likened the position we now find ourselves in and the scale of what is required to address it as being “like a war effort”. This, from the Opposition, is extremely encouraging. McManus has for the last year or so, given the distinct impression that she realises this is no phoney war. In that regard, she remains in a small minority within Dáil Eireann.
I’d like to believe the numbers are growing, but with the scant, patchy and highly erratic way the media in general continues to cover this issue (with more scare stories about how we “can’t afford” to do anything, or contributions from the it’s-all-a-scam circus) doesn’t lead to any excessive optimism.
The influence of the English papers sold in Ireland only makes matters worse. Take this front page screamer from the Daily Express at the weekend: “ECO TAX WILL COST US BILLIONS” and you’re reminded of the mountain that has to be climbed if we’re to be saved from our own relentless stupidity.
The Irish edition of last weekend’s Sunday Times had a very strange angle on a report featuring Prof Richard Tol of the ESRI, the implication of which, to the casual reader, being that climate change is unlikely to trigger resource wars, since, historically, resource conflicts were more likely to erupt during cold, rather than warm periods. The not so technical term “bullshit” sprang to mind as I scanned this piece.
I can only hope sincerely that Prof Tol is being greviously misquoted, though it’s hard to know what side of the fence he is straddling. Some of Tol’s public utterances are, let’s say, enigmatic. As far back as five years ago, the Pentagon was warning the Bush administration in no uncertain terms that climate-related disruption, from water wars, mass movement of climate refugees, food shortages, coastal innundation and a global energy crisis were the real threats to US national security. “An imminent scenario of catastrophic climate change is ‘plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately”, the report found.
Earlier this evening I joined Liz McManus along with FF’s Charlie Flanagan and the Irish Examiner’s pol corr, Seán Connolly on the panel of RTÉ Radio One’s ‘The Late Debate’, hosted by Rachel English. The first half of the one-hour discussion was all about who would or wouldn’t get the top job of president of the EU Council, with Tony Blair the apparent shoo-in, but now encountering some serious Euro-flak.
Mary Robinson would have got my vote, as a leader with a world profile, including her recent Medal of Freedom, the US’s highest civilian award, great experience as UN High Commissioner and seen to be ‘above’ partisan politics – a respected figure Europeans could unite around. Sadly, she has firmly ruled herself out, but Europe’s loss is the world’s gain, as the reason Robinson turned it down was that she intends concentrating on advocacy and awareness-raising on climate change. Mary Robinson… David McWilliams. Who knows, maybe Sammy Wilson next. I’m beginning to think we’re really starting to get somewhere!
As the programmed drew to a close, a headline from Thursday’s Irish Times was circulated in studio, to the effect that John Bruton has thrown his hat into the ring for the EU presidency. Europe could do a hell of a lot worse.
Then there’s the Irish Commissioner, now that Charlie McCreevy is to be hauled ashore (hurrah!), his bubble well and truly pricked since his beloved free markets crashed a year ago. Today’s Indo flew a kite on its front page to the effect that the much unloved Mary “calamity” Coughlan was much in demand in Brussels. I didn’t see anyone giving that notion much credence.
Tomorrow (Thursday) morning sees a double launch, by Environment Minister John Gormley. First, is the Irish ‘franchise’ of the 10:10 concept. You can log on to their website and take the pledge to cut your personal carbon emissions by 10% by the end of 2010. It’s a practical, no nonsense grassroots-led approach. It won’t solve anything as such, but we have to start somewhere, and this seems as good a place as any.
The other half of tomorrow’s launcy is by the EPA (its director general, Dr Mary Kelly also attended today’s climate change press launch) of its report entitled ‘The State of Knowledge of Impacts of Climate Change on Ireland’.
The $64,000 question remains: when are we actually going to get this climate legislation? Committee chair, Seán Barrett reckoned they could send off their report to the AG’s office and expect to have a Bill drafted in a week or two. In reality, it looks more like mid-2010 by the time solid climate legislation is ready to be enacted.
Still, with less than 40 days to Copenhagen, we had better at least produce the Heads of a Bill as fig leaf of sorts to spare the blushes of Gormley (and Cowen?) when they head to Denmark in December. There are weeks, even months, where absolutely nothing seems to be happening, then every now and again, a surge of activity.
Keeping the media’s attention, and ensuring this issue is covered more responsibly remains a huge challenge. In the UK for instance, the Guardian has publicly backed the 10:10 campaign, throwing its weight behind the inititative. Anyone here prepared to step up?
(and speaking of wars, I used the analogy during the debate of the Marhsall Plan that the US devised to help war-torn Europe to rebuild from 1948 onwards. After the broadcast, Liz McManus told me her late father had been the Irish representative liaising on the Plan. Small world indeed).