During the current recession Irish concerns for Climate Change have dropped as a priority issue for voters and politicians alike. This is understandable since all news of the Paris Cop21 agreement and the emphasis on more mundane election issues that has now ensued. One might be forgiven for thinking the Climate matters are being dealt with by governments old and new. But it doesn’t look this way to us. So what’s our General Election 2016- climate change recommendations on voting?
Back in December 2015, the UN climate change conference, COP 21, produced the ‘Paris agreement’, which commits nearly 200 countries (Ireland included) to limit global temperature increase “well below” 2 degrees, and to make efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees. (These are compared to pre-industrial levels).
This consensus and resulting agreement exceeded the expectations of many detractors (including ourselves). We got commitments to limit greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and to put $100 billion p.a. into climate mitigation finance by the developed world. With this background to the election it’s no surprise that all the political parties have mentioned climate change policies in their manifestos and accept the targets set out by the Paris COP21 agreement. But is this simply ticking the boxes and is ther any real substance behind these promises?
Details vary significantly between Parties..
We reviewed the published Climate Change and Green policies that we could find from all the candidate parties and found wide variations on their promises . What marks them apart, which also was highlighted by the Leaders debates , is their treatment of agricultural emissions. We saw large variations in terms of detail and specific commitments. There are opt-out clauses for particular sectors or interest groups (agriculture , power generation and transport).
There are restrictions, omissions and limitations in all the manifestos.
General Election 2016- climate change recommendations
Where are the targets for electric vehicles,? (they had it the 2011 manifesto). There is a Climate Change section with good measures on biomass for example. Forestry is covered with 6,000 hectares of new forestry planned over 2½ years. But we get no firm commitments to metrics and all eco-initiatives must be “balanced” against other interests, including rural economy and expansion of agricultural produce (Food Wise 2025). This is code for no action or long delays. They avoid fracking commitments one way or another and where is Solar Energy on their radar? They are lukewarm on Wind energy and balance the concerns of local communities. Commitments to Greenways and public transport plans are there, but could be more aggressive.
We liked their commitments to carbon-neutral cities within 20 years, community based projects but they lack targets and metrics on how this will happen. They are against fracking. Fossil fuel dependency will not disappear as they will retain Whitegate refinery open but , on the plus side, they will replace the coal-burning Moneypoint with low-carbon energy. The catch here is the target date … by 2025 (long after the next government moves on. While they favour the use of compressed natural gas as an interim alternative to petrol/diesel they lack commitment to accelarate EV usage.
FF, by contrast with Labour, is aggressive on electric vehicle adoption with four specific incentives for drivers. We liked the promised dedicated department of climate change, incorporating energy, transport and flood defences, which is a holistic approach that will work. Like FG, they are considering community resistance to date and are not keen on wind energy. We also liked the commitment from Michael Mc Grath to oppose a merchant Toxic Waste Incinerator proposals for Ringaskiddy.
Their commitments to climate change are a ‘bit wolly’ in relation to their competition. We do not see a detailed transport policy or a comprehensive view on energy .The party is clear on opposing fracking however. We like their approach on energy efficiency and retrofits for housing, which will help with energy bills.
As expected they are more in sync with COP21. They call for 2030 binding targets with an aggressive 80% emissions reduction by 2050. They lay out plans for agriculture, forestry, energy and transport. In contrast to FG and the others they will not expand fully the national herd under Food Wise 2025.
Their Manifesto is impressive in some areas, poor in others. The section on climate and natural resources opposes wind energy (spotting a trend here?) , prefers solar and wave / tidal energy. They put strong emphasis on good air quality but support road building, which will cause more vehicle emissions and reduce air quality. They support biomass energy generation (more emissions) but they share a dislike of fracking with the others.
The SD’s are impressive on electric vehicles, increased public transport, housing energy efficiency and elimination of fossil (peat ) fuel burning. But where is their detailed strategy on Solar power, and we don’t find targets and metrics. It’s a big gap.
People Before Profit
Their manifesto is small but to the point. They oppose fracking. As regards energy efficiency, they support retrofit insulation programmes and plan to use Coillte landbanks for energy projects (Solar, Biomass, Wind).
The rating. Our eco voting preference.
Our overall impression is one of disappointment with the efforts made by them all. No one deserves the ‘douze points’ in EuroSong jargon. So we’ve ranked the policies in a similar manner to the polling paper so you can think about it in vote casting mode. Maybe no one deserves at No1….start with a No2. The need to take the issues more seriously to merit a No.1 preference.
- some other candidate
- Green party.
- Labour party
- Social Democrats
- Fianna Fáil
- Fine Gael
- Sinn Féin
- People Before Profit.
The parties in italics have insufficient space and details to merit any vote recommendation.