Coalition performance on environment and climate slips to a C grade

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A REPORT card on the Government’s climate and environment actions shows a dip in performance over the past year.

cademic experts who assessed performance against the promises made in the Programme for Government (PfG) awarded the coalition a C, down from a C+ last year.

The PfG contains nearly 300 environmental or climate-related commitments with impacts on many aspects of society, the economy, health and natural world.

For the second year in a row, environmental group, Friends of the Earth, grouped them into nine categories and asked three academics to assess how the Government was living up to those commitments and rate them accordingly.

The three were Dr Cara Augustenborg, professor of environmental policy at UCD; Dr Diarmuid Torney of the School of Law and Government at DCU, and Dr. Paul Deane, energy expert at UCC.

They found some improvement in the area of nature and biodiversity, due largely to the setting up of the Citizens Assembly on Biodiversity and the review and restructuring of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Transport also showed improvement with the roll-out of more active travel and e-vehicle infrastructure, and the lowering of fares on public transport.

Scores for climate, water, buildings and energy all fell, however, while air quality, waste and agriculture and forestry remained the same.

The lowest scores were for energy, as delays in delivering additional renewable power continued, and for agriculture because of the continued pursuit of policies that were damaging to the environment and climate without offering viable alternatives to farmers.

Dr Augustenborg said despite being in power more than two years, the Government was slow to move from planning policies to implementing them.

“While this Government has made progress in some areas, their pace does not align with Ireland’s deteriorating environmental conditions,” she said.

Dr Torney also criticised the lack of tangible action. “We have had no shortage of vision and ambition but not nearly enough implementation overall.”

Deane said there was a “mismatch between climate ambition and action”. He said policy was “moving at a speed that is both at odds with the existing climate crisis and overlapping fossil fuel energy crisis.”

Friends of the Earth chief executive, Oisín Coghlan, said the Government was facing key tests over the coming months and current performance was cause for concern.

“To extend the school report analogy, the Government is attentive in class and is quick to put their hand up but that isn’t reflected in their actual results,” he said.

Key tests lay ahead for Government, he said, including the need to translate the recently agreed sectoral emissions targets into action and to tackle the energy price crisis without retreating to fossil fuels.

“It’s time to put the head down and turn their obvious enthusiasm into results,” he said.

The academic assessors praised the Government’s performance on air quality, noting the introduction of smoky fuel restrictions “in spite of challenging political circumstances.”

They also said significant progress had been made in the area of waste through circular economy policies that would limit single use plastics and packaging.

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