Credit: Gript

The Government’s New Climate Bill: Impressively Stupid

As the economy tanks, and tens of thousands of Irish people lose their jobs due to lockdown, our nation’s intrepid leaders have turned their attention to the issue that clearly matters most: cows farting in Leitrim. 

The government has officially announced their new Climate Action Bill, which will aim for a “net-zero” greenhouse gas economy by 205The Government’s Climate bill: Unbelievably terrible.0, setting up 5-year climate budgets to aid the process. 

The bill addresses a wide range of pressing issues which I’m sure most of us have suffered many a sleepless night about. They plan to tackle everything, from Irish farmers having too much livestock, to taxing foreign goods which aren’t made in climate-friendly ways with a “carbon border adjustment tax” (mentioned at 33:30 of this press conference). This will inevitably drive up costs in Irish shops for anything from beef to steel goods, but is surely worth it for the greater good of the planet. The bill even refers to the “distinct characteristics” of biogenic methane from animal backsides, presumably in how it might affect the weather in Sydney, Australia. These intellectual titans have truly thought of everything.

Of course the bill contains its fair share of vague waffle as well – for example:

“For the purposes of performing their functions under sections 4, 5 and 6 the Minister and the Government shall have regard to the following matters: climate justice”

The phrase “climate justice” appears just once in the text, and is not elaborated on in any way. It’s just left hanging there in the list without definition or explanation. But Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that the measures are being introduced with a goal of “eliminating damaging activities”, while Minister for Climate Action, Eamon Ryan, described it as “a radical departure” from previous laws, insisting that the government are committed to passing it in the Dáil by December 15th. 

“We will change how we heat our homes, generate power, move around our country, grow our food, and run our businesses. It sends a clear signal to every sector that it must reshape its activities to reduce emissions,” the Green Party leader said. 

Predictably, much of the bill appeals to the big supranational organisations, pledging “compliance with any existing obligation of the State under the law of the European Union or any international agreement”, and referencing the United Nations Framework Convention On Climate Change. 

But while not actually stated in the bill itself, the government has also insisted that one of their climate goals is to ban the sale and import of all new fossil fuel cars by 2030. Presumably this means everyone will be forced to either use public transport, which is impossible in remote rural areas, or switch to electric cars, which, according to Money Guide Ireland, are 15-50% more expensive than conventional vehicles

For example, a petrol-powered Golf from Volkswagen costs around €25,000. The electric version of the same car costs a vomit-inducing €42,000, which is €17,000 quid more expensive. While you can get a government grant and VRT rebate which, when combined, reduce the price by around €10,000, you’re still looking at a €7,000 euro increase in price which most normal people can’t afford. So unless you’re rich, anyone planning to buy a car within the next decade would probably be better off going with some manner of Fred Flintstone-like contraption if you want to be properly future-proofed.

Currently the government offers €5,000 grants in public funding to help pad the cost for consumers, but that won’t be financially viable if electric vehicles come into widespread use – according to the CSO, there are over two million private cars in the Republic of Ireland, and if even one tenth of those motorists chose to avail of the grant, the cost would run the public coffers over a billion euro. 

Reading the severity of all these measures – which are, to quote Ryan himself, “radical” – you’d be forgiven for assuming that Ireland was some sort of extreme climate offender on the international stage, up there with China and the US. In fact, Irish green types are often quick to mention how Ireland has the third highest per capita rate of carbon emissions in the EU, and cite this as an example of our abject failure on climate policy. “Wow”, you might think upon hearing that factoid. “That’s atrocious. We really need to step our game up.”

What these activists conveniently and consistently neglect to mention, though, is that having a high rate of emissions “per capita” doesn’t mean much in a tiny island State of less than 5 million people. In terms of our total, overall contribution to man-made fossil fuel emissions, Ireland makes up barely 0.1% of global total according to the EU. What this means in practice is if we literally reduced our man made carbon emissions to zero – as in, no cars of any kind, no coal, no power plants or livestock anywhere in sight, going full caveman-mode – the total amount of man-made greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere would reduce by a whopping one-tenth of one percent. 

Considering all of this, it’s hardly surprising that the Greens have been decimated in the latest Irish Times poll, with their support dropping 8 points to a measly 4%. “Radically” altering Irish society and increasing the cost of living during a crippling recession, when Irish people already contribute almost nothing to the global carbon footprint, is completely unreasonable, and will not actually help the earth in any way. And most importantly, the general public know it.

Most normal people worrying about their financial future can see this bill for what it is – a way for bourgeois hippies in government to appear active between Dáil snoozes. 

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