Carbon Budgets will be the test of Government sincerity on climate emergency

06 May 2019

Speaking in relation to the latest UN report about species extinction, the Leader of the Labour Party, Brendan Howlin TD, called for the Government do more than call a climate emergency, but to set a timeline to achieve the recommendations of the all-party Oireachtas report on climate action, including setting carbon budgets.

Labour have gone further and called for carbon budgets to be overseen by a Minister for Public Expenditure and Climate Action to enforce compliance as only the Minister in charge of the budget can.

Brendan said:

“With nearly eight billion people alive today, it is no surprise that the natural world has been pushed beyond its limits. The UN report is a stark warning that one in eight species of plant and animal will be extinct if we do not find a way for humanity to co-exist alongside nature. Labour calls on the Government to declare a climate emergency, but words are not enough: we need to see a timeline of action.

“People cannot have a decent quality of life without a healthy natural world, whether it is our need for plants to provide clean air, for insects to pollinate our crops, or simply the enjoyment of nature. The single largest threat to nature is the burning of fossil fuels and the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Temperature changes have already damaged habitats, and this leads to extinctions.

“After months of hearing from expert witnesses, the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action has produced a detailed report with a list of ambitious recommendations. The report restates Ireland’s international obligation to achieve a reduction in our carbon emissions from 60 million tonnes/year to 33 million tonnes/year by 2030, and to net zero by 2050. These emissions are cumulative, so missing the target one year means an even larger target the following year to catch up.

“The report calls for five-year carbon budgets to be set, based on scientific evidence, with tighter targets for each sector of the economy each year. This requires an all-of-Government commitment to climate action, which is why I have called for the creation of a Department of Public Expenditure and Climate Action, to enforce emissions targets as only the Minister in charge of the Budget can, and to direct public spending in a way that is sustainable.

“The Government’s action plan will doubtless list a range of policies, but let us be clear that there is only one test of responses to the climate emergency, which is how many million tonnes of emissions each policy will eliminate. We have detailed reports from the Environmental Protection Agency about where our emissions come from, including transport, farming and electricity generation. The Government’s action plan needs to show how each area will produce less pollution year on year, until we meet our climate targets.

“It is disappointing that Sinn Féin and parties on the hard left refused to sign up to the Oireachtas climate action report in full, because they prefer to make hollow political gestures about carbon tax. Let us be clear, fuel poverty won’t decrease due to opposition to carbon tax. But carbon tax revenues could fund two ways to reduce poverty: home insulation schemes and better public transport. Labour has consistently argued that the change to a low carbon economy must be a just transition for workers and communities. The opportunity exists to make Ireland’s economy not only more sustainable but also more equal.

“As the schoolchildren’s protests have reminded us forcibly, there is no second planet. Post-war generations have enjoyed unprecedented economic benefits, but now is the time to put the economy on a sustainable footing to preserve nature for future generations.”



The Oireachtas report can be found here:


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