Carthy critiques government failure to accept SF amendments on Climate Action Bill
The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy, has express disappointment that the government failed to accept any of Sinn Féin amendments to the Climate Bill which would have protected ordinary workers, families and farmers.
The Cavan Monaghan TD said that his party had brought forward practical amendments to ensure that politicians and civil servants fully understood that delivering climate action can only be done effectively in partnership with people and that mitigations are required to protect those impacted by climate action policy.
“We sought to ensure that we don’t simply ban practices at home only to see us import less sustainable products from abroad, and critically, we sought to ensure that there was full Oireachtas oversight of the entire process.
“Unfortunately, the approach taken by government in not accepting a single amendment was incredibly disappointing and worrying. Sinn Féin will, however, continue to strive to met our climate obligations in a way that protects the most vulnerable in our society and doesn’t lead to tokenism and hypocrisy.
Deputy Carthy told the Dáil during last week’s debate on the legislation:
“This legislation is a litmus test for the Government, particularly for the Green Party in government. I often wonder if the Minister accepts at all the critiques that are made of his approach to climate.
“Many people have seen climate action as meaning very little other than additional charges on them and their families, forcing people to pay more for things for which there is no alternative. The Minister’s utterances in the past have simply added to the sense that the Green Party in particular is out of touch. His references to salad boxes on windows in the midst of a global pandemic or having two cars running in a village reinforced the point.
“This is the Minister’s opportunity to show that he has been listening, and for Government to show it understands that the overwhelming view of the Irish people is that this country absolutely needs to and can play a positive, constructive role with regard to climate action. But, that there is also an obligation on all of us to ensure that those who pay for that climate action are the people who caused the climate crisis in the first place.
“The irony of all the moves we are making in terms of transition and providing alternatives is that the very people who became billionaires in creating a climate crisis are the ones who are best placed to actually capitalise on the measures aimed at addressing it. That is unless governments put in place the types of protections that will be underlined to support those families, workers, communities and farmers who are at the coalface of the deliverance of what is it in place.
“Our amendments set out broadly Sinn Féin’s prioritisation of ensuring that climate justice involves a human-centred approach to climate action which safeguards the rights of the most vulnerable and shares the burdens and benefits of climate action across every region and sector. The amendments define just transition as meaning the bringing together of workers, communities, employers and governments in social dialogue to drive the plans, policies and investments that are needed for a fast and fair transformation to a low-carbon economy.
“They set out, in clear terms, that we are not going to be hypocrites and say, on one hand, that we will put in place all these measures with regard to Irish emissions while, on the other hand, supporting trade deals at a European and global level, such as the Mercosur trade deal, the CETA trade deal, and all the trade deals which are coming down the line and which do the exact opposite of all that.
“Crucially, the Minister will know that we put forward a number of amendments which set out clearly that this House understand the concerns of our farming communities. We asked for and put forward amendments that were unfortunately ruled out of order. We put it to the Minister that he should insert those amendments because doing so would ensure that any action carried taken by the Government would lead to assessment of the social, economic, financial and rural impact of any decisions that are made in order that we can ensure that carbon budgets are set on the basis of fairness.
“We asked the Minister to ensure that the reviews of carbon budgets to be carried out will include such assessments. We also asked that if negative impacts were identified, the Minister and the Climate Change Advisory Council would be responsible for outlining how the Government would mitigate against them.
“Very importantly, we brought forward amendments that would address carbon leakage by ensuring that we would not ban practices in Ireland that would lead to increases in imports from the other side of the world. In other words, we are not going to reduce the level of beef production in Ireland if the net result would be the importation, at the expense of the rainforests, of a far inferior product from a country on the other side of the world.
“We brought forward a proposal which would ensure that any decisions in respect of livestock would be based on sustainability and that if we are ever to get to the point where we must reduce livestock numbers, we will start with the feedlots rather than the suckler farmers who have been targeted and time again. By means of our amendments, we put forward proposals which would ensure that the work farmers do through carbon sequestration is recognised in a clear and transparent manner.
“Up until now, the Minister has refused to accept any of our amendments or bring forward any of his own in order to address those very real concerns. I must ask why that is the case. The very fact that he has refused to do it has increased the suspicion, particularly in our rural and farming communities, that he is not actually serious about a just transition at all. He is actually just serious about getting the sound bites and the eventual big banner headline to the effect that he has pushed this Bill through the Dáil when, in reality, it means nothing. Its worthless because he has not outlined the framework of how we can do it in a fair and sustainable way.
“I will ask the Minister again. More importantly, I will ask his colleagues in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Will they stand up for fairness, as they have been uttering in corridors and whispering in communities all across this State?
“Will they stand up for workers and rural communities by accepting the amendments that have been put before the House today? It is a big question because we know it is very difficult for a Minister to get up and say that he or she did not deal with an issue adequately on Committee Stage. I am, however, asking the Minister to do that so we can ensure that we have the greatest possible buy-in for climate action across this country.
“Everybody wants to play their part but not everybody should be expected to pay what could be a very heavy price. It is up to the Minister. It is time to articulate very clearly whether he is on the side of just transition or on the side of plain rhetoric.”