Mick Wallace The #US and #EU are increasingly using #sanctions as a weapon against countries that don't bow to their financial i… https://t.co/qMbVI1XYfc
Mick Wallace How bad that the #EU of the so called 'European Values' has supported this Terrorism against the people of #Syriahttps://t.co/wRXMSubfYi
Mick Wallace Western Colonialism never really stopped, it just got a make over - It's now called 'Financial Imperialism'. Are we… https://t.co/KoMpQ69bBw
Mick Wallace RT @wallacemick: Would mean something for Irish people and the notion of 'Irish Neutrality' if Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs @simoncov

Dáil Diary no 9- 31 Jan 2015

Need to address Climate Change Now, Not later…

The Climate Bill announced last week is a big disappointment to anyone with even a remote interest in the Climate Change debate which is growing more serious, with every passing year. Some day, some group of Government Ministers are going to be left with the difficult job of having to do something about tackling climate change. Sadly, in the meantime, it looks as if vested interests will continue to shape policy and decision making which ignores the reality of climate change. As Naomi Klein says in her book – ‘This Changes Everything’ – “ In virtually every country, the political class accepts the premise that it is not the place of government to tell large corporations what they can and cannot do, even when public health and welfare are clearly at stake. Here’s my Dáil contribution on the subject last week.-

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015, which was published last Monday, is a serious disappointment. It is a further disappointment that much of the work done by the Committee, which went out of its way not to be seen as impractical, has been undermined. The Bill published last Monday is repetitiously vague throughout. At times the repetition looks as if it is a printing error, as the same statements are printed over and over again. Worst of all, the Government has kicked the can down the road to the next government, by extending the deadline for the next climate plan to 2017.

 The Taoiseach made himself clear on the issue on Tuesday evening, when he spoke about Ireland being in a position to negotiate with the EU about the targets. The only issue we should be negotiating on is the possibility of achieving better targets sooner. We, the people and the world cannot sit around waiting on shortsighted, pro-business, GDP-obsessed neoliberals to play a game of musical chairs to determine which cabal of Ministers will finally get saddled with the difficult job of having to do something about tackling climate change. The stakes are too high and the problems too deep and widespread. The biggest problem is the Government's cosy ties with big business and the capitalist elite. The current Government has never expressed concern about the fact that under current licensing terms, the Irish State retains a 0% royalty share in any oil or gas found in the Shell Corrib project.

 According to a 2007 study commissioned by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Ireland offers one of the lowest government takes in the world. What kind of lobbying got us into that position? The recently passed lobbying Bill ensures that many people will still get cosy jobs in the industries the Government is supposed to be regulating and that the conversations that go on between the economic players, politicians and civil servants can remain as secretive as the Government pleases. We need a monumental ideological shift to make this Bill work, and a neoliberal government, whether the current one or the next, will not facilitate it. The interests of the markets, bankers and multinational corporations remain paramount.

 Let me explain the reality of the situation the Government is steadily ignoring by quoting from Naomi Klein's new book, This Changes Everything. Every Member should read this all-encompassing book. It does not treat climate change in isolation, but covers almost every issue we discuss here and every dimension of how society is organised. Sooner or later, we will have to cop on to ourselves. She states: 

In 2011 the London based Carbon Tracker Initiative conducted a study that added together the reserves claimed by all the fossil fuel companies, private and state-owned. It found that the oil, gas and coal to which these players had already laid claim - deposits they have on their books and which were already making money for shareholders - represented 2,795 gigatons of carbon (a gigaton is 1 billion metric tons). That's a very big problem because we know roughly how much carbon can be burned between now and 2050 and still leave us a solid chance (roughly 80 per cent) of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius. According to one highly credible study, that amount of carbon is 565 gigatons between 2011 and 2049. And as Bill McKibben points out, "the thing to notice is, 2,795 is five times 565. It's not even close." He adds: "What those numbers mean is quite simple. This industry has announced, in filings to the SEC and in promises to shareholders, that they're determined to burn five times more fossil fuel than the planet's atmosphere can begin to absorb.

Will the Minister of State please tell the House what proposal there is in this Bill, or in the Government's imagination, even to begin to deal with this problem? I refer to the problem of the unfettered power of the fossil fuel companies to destroy any chance of reaching the targets alluded to in the Bill. Why is the Corrib project even going ahead? Why is the Government even entertaining the idea of fracking in Ireland? Does it have, as is happening in the UK, employees of fossil fuel companies placed within government to work on energy issues free of charge? Why has it refused to tackle in the lobbying Bill, the revolving door cancer within politics which should simply be called "jobs in lieu of bribes"? Why do we allow, aside from the dreadful fact that we are promoting terrorism, the planes of one of the biggest polluters on the planet, the US military, to pass through Shannon Airport on a daily basis?

 Many serious steps need to be taken, but the first should be a serious "polluter pays" tax regime. Professor Stephen W. Pacala of the Princeton Environmental Institute has estimated that the top 500 million richest people on earth are responsible for over half of the world's carbon emissions while 3 billion of the poorest people emit essentially nothing. Overpopulation is not the problem. Rich people being allowing to treat the earth like a garbage dump is the main problem. A series of progressive carbon taxes, such as a millionaire's or a higher billionaire's tax and severe punitive measures for multinational corporations must be implemented in order for us to reach the needed targets. Only the rich enjoy the benefits of their massive incomes. Trickle down economics is a myth and the richest 1% will own half the world's wealth by next year. The deprivation rate in Ireland has risen to 31.5%, up from 27% last year. Taxes that are progressive and fair to begin with are now even fairer by default. A carbon tax is a progressive tax and the revenues collected can be put to use in investment in a carbon free Ireland.

 A perfect illustration of how the Government's lack of concern for the environment and how incapable it is of doing anything about it arose late last year with the publication of the Government's strategic blueprint for investing in transport. An Taisce said that the policy proposed in the document: "reflects either ignorance of, or indifference to, the global scientific consensus on climate, the Copenhagen Accord, and the Irish Government commitment to a low-carbon future by 2050." The document fails to assess the fuel source and emission impact of existing and future transport infrastructure or the need to protect coastal and rail infrastructure from storms. Vitally, the Government has no place for rail transport in its future transport plans. It goes as far as to argue that: "Unlike car ownership and use, public transport usage is generally adversely impacted by rising incomes." I am not entirely sure what it means by this poorly phrased argument, but it seems that the Government's main reason for not investing in the universally accepted eco-friendly mode of transport is that when everyone is so rich from all the austerity it has imposed on them, they will be too affluent to take the train. The argument is so weak it gives the lie to what is really going on. The National Roads Authority has become a monster and a self sustaining industry that is too big to challenge and, seemingly, too big to fail. The NRA could have been abolished in 2008 or 2009, but the decision was not taken to do that. Now it has grown too big and has got its tentacles into too many areas, making it impossible to do away with it.

The policies we need, to quote Naomi Klein, "need to be fair, so that the people already struggling to cover the basics are not being asked to make additional sacrifices to offset the excessive consumption of the rich. That means cheap public transit and clean light rail accessible to all; affordable, energy efficient housing along those transit lines; cities planned for high-density living; bike lanes in which riders aren't asked to risk their lives to get to work; land management that discourages sprawl and encourages local, low-energy forms of agriculture; urban design that clusters essential services like schools and health care along transit routes and in pedestrian-friendly areas; programs that require manufacturers to be responsible for the electronic waste they produce, and to radically reduce built-in redundancies and obsolescences." Instead, the Government is dismantling and letting rail infrastructure rot, while overcharging for a less frequent and under-funded service. We now have the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform looking at plans to abolish free travel passes for spouses and companions of the elderly. This is not the way forward. Neoliberal conservatives are not capable of providing Ireland with security against climate change. The interests of the polluters have been served for far too long.”

 

Mick Wallace.

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