Room for improvement in 'vague' Climate Bill, Cork-based academic warns

Room for improvement in 'vague' Climate Bill, Cork-based academic warns

Specific targets are needed in the climate bill, Dr James Glynn has warned. Steam evaporating from cooling towers on a cold autumnal morning over the industrial estate at Little Island, Co. Cork, Ireland. File Picture: David Creedon / Anzenberger

The ambiguity in some of the language of the Climate Bill means that it will be impossible to gauge whether commitments made on some targets will be met, a leading academic has warned.

Dr James Glynn, of the Cork-based MaREI research centre for energy, climate and marine, said that while the bill was to be welcomed, particularly the attention paid to defining and implementing carbon budgets, it had much room for improvement.

He told TDs and senators at a climate change committee hearing that he shared previous concerns from legal experts regarding the bill.

The Climate Bill - which sets out measures such as successive five-year 'carbon budgets' where limits will be set on the combined sectors of society on the amount of emissions that can be produced - has come in for intense scrutiny since being unveiled earlier this month.

Professor John Sweeney of Maynooth University’s department of geography slammed the bill at the same committee recently, saying it was full of "weasel words, loopholes and get-out clauses".

Mr Glynn, while not using similar strong language, said he also had concerns.

“From a scientific and engineering perspective, the ambiguity in some of the language of the bill also means that one cannot measure or define whether or not commitments within the bill are being met.” 

He said he was recommending “scientifically explicit language to be used within the bill”, with particular attention paid to definitions of carbon budgets, and the method used to calculate warming of each greenhouse gas as a proportion of the carbon budget.

Specific scientific language should also apply to which gases, if any, will not be included in the carbon budgets, he said.

He called for a timeline of the carbon budget, and any definition of the word ‘removal’ to include removal of greenhouse gases in energy combustion and industrial processes prior to release to the atmosphere.

Mr Glynn said he was also recommending that the “pursuit and achievement of a minimum acceptable goal to be included” if targets were to be objectively measured.

The bill has to acknowledge the role of early dialogue and societal buy-in, he said.

“Behaviour change and demand reduction will be required. The national objective is unlikely to be met by technological means alone,” Mr Glynn added.

Mr Glynn is an energy system engineer and research fellow at the SFI MaREI Centre, with a focus on energy systems analysis.

His highly respected team recently published research on national and global bases on the role of carbon capture and storage in zero-carbon energy systems consistent with the Paris Agreement.

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