ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan said claims he is a climate change denier were “misinformed” as he came under attack for saying legislation in the area is not a priority.
His predecessor, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, said Mr Hogan had “abandoned any real commitment on climate change” by claiming laws in the area are not urgent.
Mr Hogan said he was not “walking away” from the issue “without targets or ambitions”, but was focusing on shaping policy aimed at reducing carbon emissions and “the right policy must be in place before legislation is introduced”.
He was speaking as he published a review of climate change policy, which said Ireland will meet carbon emission targets for 2012 under the Kyoto Agreement. But it said the 2020 targets cannot be met “on the basis of existing policies and measures”.
The minister said he would be opening a public consultation next year ahead of framing a policy to meet those targets. “We need to have economic sustainability and economic recovery working together,” he said.
The minister was accused of giving into the agricultural sector after saying he would not impose sectoral emission targets in the interest of economic sustainability and food security.
Molly Walsh of Friends of the Earth said this argument did not stack up: “With seven billion people on earth, it is more important than ever that we reduce our carbon emissions,” she said.
“Ireland is never going to be the bread basket of the world and we must recognise the profound impacts that climate change will have on our food security.”
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s environment spokesman Niall Collins accused Mr Hogan of “dismissing environmental concerns outright and denying the impact of climate change on our domestic economy”.
The previous environment minister, Eamon Ryan, who published the Climate Change Bill in the dying days of the last Government, strongly criticised Mr Hogan for “abandoning” the legislation. He said Mr Hogan had sought to put climate change “in competition” with economic recovery and that was “a serious error”.
Mr Hogan dismissed this criticism and said the Greens were “all talk and no action” on the issue.
The Environmental Pillar of Social Partnership said it was “disappointed” that the bill will not be a priority.
“This represents a significant backtrack on the Government’s commitment to deliver climate change legislation by 2012.”
Tara Connolly, convenor of the Pillar’s Climate and Energy Working Group, said: “The climate policy review by the Department of Environment clearly states that we will not meet our 2020 targets under current policies and measures. We need a Climate Change Bill to make sure this government and future governments don’t pass the buck.”
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