Open Letter calling for reform of Climate Advisory Council

We, the undersigned environmental organisations wish to raise concerns that have become apparent with the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC), the advisory body set up to advise on how Ireland can achieve the transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050. We call that the CCAC be reformed so that it can properly carry out its stated functions.

Recent concerning statements from the CCAC include:

Professor John Fitzgerald's comments to the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action on the 16/10/19:

Responding to questions from Brid Smith TD, Professor Fitzgerald stated “What do we do when the Corrib runs out? We could have an LNG terminal somewhere and bring in LNG or if we discovered gas, it would be of value in terms of security of supply. It seemed to us that there is little benefit to Ireland in drilling for oil. With gas, there is a potential benefit from the perspective of security of supply. Irrespective of what we do, it will make no difference to Ireland's emissions, which is our primary remit. I have a concern in the context of spending too much time on this issue, which will not affect our emissions. It is a distraction. We are far behind and we need to make big efforts. Devoting considerable time to this issue will make no difference to our emissions.” [1]

This statement is particularly concerning as it indicates that the Climate Change Advisory Council have chosen to exclude non-territorial emissions from their remit when giving analysis. The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, which instituted the Advisory Council put no such restriction on the Council. Instead the legislation instructed the council to advise on among other things “the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions”.[2]

If the Climate Change Advisory Council continues to exclude non-territorial emissions from it’s analysis, then it could lead to continued and increasing outsourcing of Ireland’s emissions.

As Professor Barry McMullin recently stated before the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action regarding an Irish LNG import terminal
“Under the existing United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, and the Paris Agreement, nations are only responsible for emissions within their own territories. The upstream emissions I mentioned arising from our use of fracked gas would primarily fall under the territory of the United States. We currently delegate responsibility for those emissions to the US. However, if it withdraws from the Paris Agreement, all bets are off and we will have to look at our own responsibility much more closely.” [3]

Professor John Fitzgerald's comments on RTE’s Primetime 12/11/19.

Professor Fitzgerald stated
"I'm concerned about the fake news in Ireland that it's companies is the problem. 70% of the emissions at least are controlled by individuals, by farmers, by people driving their cars, by people heating their households. So actually we the people of Ireland have got to change, companies have got to change too but there isn't a get out of jail free card and say oh it's the companies who are to blame. It's we are the problem and we have to change."[4]

We feel that this is an attempt by Professor Fitzgerald to re-frame the climate debate to focus on individual actions away from the system changes that need to be made. This statement is at odds with previous research that found that just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.[5]

Indeed renowned climate scientist and director of the Earth System Science Center at the Pennsylvania State University, Michael Mann has recently stated:
“there is an attempt being made by them to deflect attention away from finding policy solutions to global warming towards promoting individual behaviour changes that affect people’s diets, travel choices and other personal behaviour. This is a deflection campaign and a lot of well-meaning people have been taken in by it.”[6]

The CCAC’s recent endorsement that “continued exploration for, and recovery of new offshore natural gas reserves can be consistent with a low carbon transition.'' [7]

In a scathing critique of the CCAC’s endorsement of further gas exploration, Professor Barry McMullin states
“Firstly, it seems incredible that the CCAC could still, in late 2019, be implying that ‘decarbonisation by 2050’ represents an adequate or just climate mitigation response for wealthy, high per-capita emissions states. It simply doesn’t. …...
In effect, it appears that the CCAC has strayed into embedding a tacit, and ultimately repugnant, political premise (namely, a globally unjust transition) as a basis for its supposedly purely scientific advice”. [8]

Professor McMullin also questions why the CCAC has chosen to justify one “immature technology” natural gas with carbon capture and storage technology (CCS), over other technologies being developed, in its attempt to justify exploration for gas.

In finishing the article Professor McMullin called for a change in the makeup of the Council stating that would be very helpful if there was “significant improvement in the diversity of expertise represented on the Council itself and active provision for open peer review of future draft findings, analysis or advice.”

Recently at an Intergenerational conference on climate justice in Cork, President Michael D Higgins stated
“We must, therefore, reclaim the State and reassert its constructive, and potentially transformative, role in our lives, acknowledging that the State has suffered heavily, has been ravaged, as a result of decades of attack from an orthodox laissez-faire economic narrative asserting that the State’s role needs to be minimal, and the private sector should lead in all aspects of life, including the response to climate change.” [9]

We feel that it is of the utmost importance that this independent advisory body will be beyond reproach as to its independence and its willingness to challenge the status quo.

We call for the makeup of the CCAC be reviewed and diversified along the following lines.

Climate Scientists should be represented on the Council.
Economists from the laissez-faire economic tradition not be given such prominence on the the Council
Representation of women should be increased above the current 18%
Representation to ensure that the “just transition” is considered in any advice given.


John McElligott
Safety Before LNG

Eoin O Leidhin
Gluaiseacht for Global Justice

Anne Marie Harrington
Futureproof Clare

Eddie Mitchell
Jamie Murphy, Chair
Scott Coombs, Secretary
Love Leitrim


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