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 12- Feb 11 2015

Time to wake up to the Reality of Climate Change...

Tonight I had ten minutes to speak on the Government's Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015, which represents a huge disappointment. Here's my Dáil contribution tonight-

If we want to play our part in the global effort to mitigate the onward march of climate change, one of the primary and most essential steps we can take is to embrace the “no new fossil frontiers” principle, and furthermore, push for it to be enshrined in international law. This would mean lobbying for a Europe-wide ban on fracking; a ban on offshore drilling in the fragile Arctic region as well as the Amazon Rainforest; a global moratorium on carbon-intensive tar sands extraction; lobby public institutes like colleges, faith organizations, and governments to sell whatever financial holdings they have in fossil fuel companies. This movement is based on the Idea, to quote Naomi Klein – 

“that anyone with a basic grasp of arithmetic can look at how much carbon the fossil fuel companies have in their reserves, subtract how much carbon scientists tell us we can emit and still keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, and conclude that the fossil fuel companies have every intention of pushing the planet beyond the boiling point.”

The truth of the matter is that fossil fuel companies and the governments who facilitate them, are a bigger threat to global security and stability than any of the so-called “terrorist” groups that the government regularly condemns in this house. The fossil fuel business model and its cronies should be put on trial – given the international consensus around the realities of the issue of global warming, it has now become morally unacceptable to be financing fossil fuel extraction. But this is exactly what we are doing with the Corrib project - 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. 

Yesterday in the AV room, while the government was preparing to reassert its support for the violation of women’s human rights, a woman from the Philippines named Lidy Nacpil spoke about the effects that climate change was having on her country, not tomorrow but today. She described how just one of the now normal mega-Typhoons in 2013 took the lives of 10,000 people and destroyed the homes of two million others. She pointed out that while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have agreed on the safety limit of a 2 degrees rise in the global temperature by 2050, for her people even two degrees in not acceptable, in fact, what needs to be done is to keep the temperature rise as low as possible, as things will only get worse for the Philippines from here on in. 

But here we are, in a country with one of the highest levels of carbon emissions per capita in the world, handing over our fossil fuels reserves to one of the world’s biggest polluters as a gift at Corrib, while branding as criminals those who object to the willful destruction of the planet. And here we are, discussing a climate bill that doesn’t promise any plan until 2017 and no progress report until 2023; a bill that fails to set an emission reduction target for 2050, doesn’t commit to a definition of “low-carbon economy”, refuses to make the Expert Advisory Council fully independent, and fails to recognise the importance of the principle of climate justice. 

In Ireland we emit more greenhouse gases than the poorest 400 million people living on this planet put together. As noted by Stop Climate Chaos, Ireland is emitting 17 tonnes of greenhouse gases per person per year. This makes us the second worst polluter in the European Union, and compares to an EU average of 11 tonnes. We need to recognise that we are not innocent here, that we have benefitted at the expense of others, and it is time to do our part to redress the balance. 

Much like tobacco companies profit from the willful damage to peoples health, shortening the length and quality of people’s lives and in millions of cases, assisting in their early death, fossil fuel companies profit from the destruction of our atmosphere and planet, the contamination of the air we breathe, the water that supports life on earth, and the undermining of the chances of decent survival for billions of people. The organs of justice around the world have forced the tobacco giants to pay billions in damages to those whose lives they have violated. In a just and progressive world, we would start to see similar cases brought against the fossil fuel industry, and the governments that facilitate their extractivism, that is doing so much to diminish the quality of life on earth and the chances for the meaningful survival of our species. 

But the reality is a far cry from this scenario. The Irish government is presently colluding in one of the most drastic transfers of power in world history. The secretive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which this government and the mainstream media refuses to discuss in anything resembling a critical manner, contains a series of investor rights that would allow businesses to bypass national court systems, and sue governments in private arbitration panels, including over measures passed here in the Dail to protect health and environment, which they might claim undermine corporate profits. 

To return to Naomi Klein on this subject, she points out that current trade and investment rules provide legal grounds for foreign corporations to fight virtually any attempt by governments to restrict the exploitation of fossil fuels, particularly once a carbon deposit has attracted investment and extraction has begun, and especially when the aim of the investment is explicitly to export the oil, gas, and coal and sell it on the world market. When people are informed about the reality of the trade rules that allow capitalism to function in its current form they usually express disbelief, but the truth is out, the interests of corporations are more important than those of the wellbeing of the entire population of the planet, and this Government, with its neoliberal agenda, does not challenge this doctrine. 

Minster Bruton, in a written answer to me last November, stated that he believes that the ‘investor state dispute mechanism’ included in the TTIP, is a valid one. Is it really valid that under this agreement a fossil fuel giant could sue the Irish government for its decision to ban fracking in the West of Ireland? And these kinds of cases are being filed, more frequently than ever.  Naomi Klein reports that as of 2013, a full sixty out of 169 pending cases at the World Bank’s dispute settlement tribunal had to do with the oil and gas or mining sectors, compared to a mere seven extraction cases throughout the entire 1980s and 1990s. Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, says that of the more than $3 Billion in compensation already awarded to corporations under U.S. trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties, more than 85 percent “pertains to challenges against natural resource, energy, and environmental policies.”

Through the TTIP, Corporations are being given the right to become the authors of the legislation that is supposed to curb and monitor their destructive behaviour. The last buffer that protects civil society from the pure unfettered greed of the profit motive that drives the corporate led exploitation of the planet, and its people, is being breached, and this government has repeatedly demonstrated that it is a willing facilitator of this movement. 

Everything is connected, and all the legislation that passes through this house should reflect that truth. We need to see the climate change situation for what it really is – a chance to remake the country and the world for the better, and do our bit in the global fight to make the world habitable for the global populations of today and tomorrow. 

Minister Noonan, said last week that we have no austerity problems in Ireland - are we to take it then that the funding is available for the infrastructure projects that are needed to mitigate climate change. 

I too look forward to the amendment stage of this bill where we hope to argue for many of the recommendations of the Oireachtas Environment Committee, that are being sidelined in such an unfathomable manner by the bill as it stands. 

Mick Wallace

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