August 2017        

106 ways to continue the assault on our planet

Johnny McGrath

On 19 July the minister for communications, climate action and the environment, Denis Naughten, and the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, published their “National Mitigation Plan,” containing 106 “actions.”
      Well, not actions, really—or ideas, or plans: more like a list of 106 things, most of which are merely a continuation of Government, EU, Paris Agreement and World Trade Organization and World Bank policies, including the controversial and completely unsuccessful Emissions Trading Directive (2003), which essentially financialised carbon emissions—the pinnacle of neo-liberal insanity, or what Marxists might call the metabolic rift: that fundamental contradiction between the capital-accumulation process and the environment needed to sustain life itself.
      Like most of this “new politics,” and new taoiseach, scratch the surface and it’s business as usual for people and the environment.
      For those interested, the full plan is available at www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/climate-action, with a handy appendix outlining each of the 106 “things.”
      The stated aim of existing emissions policy from the National Policy Position is to see “an aggregate reduction in carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions of at least 80 per cent (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors; and in parallel, an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.” And the Government states in this 106-point “plan”: “Importantly, the Government recognises that this first Plan does not provide a complete roadmap to achieve the 2050 objective, but begins the process of development of medium to long term mitigation choices for the next and future decades.”
      So, while we have an ambition to reduce 80 per cent of emissions to try to tackle the greatest challenge confronting humanity, we really have no actual concrete measures: we kind of have a process and a desire to try to develop measures at some point before 2050—hopefully. Inspiring stuff!
      If you can make your way through the points, it is clearly a continuation of light-touch failed regulatory policies, and giving incentives to business through grants and tax cuts, and making citizens pay through taxes and levies, which, as always under this system, will benefit those with money to invest in their home or cars and penalise working people who can’t afford to avail of “choices.”
      Indeed one of the 106 points is the establishment of a “Behavioural Economics Working Group” to consider behavioural change, which will recommend even more grants and incentives.
      The biggest polluters—big business in agriculture, energy, and transport—will continue to pollute the most and pay the least, while individuals will be burdened and blamed. As the Canadian environmentalist Ian Angus recently put it, “and there are about three billion people on this Earth who contribute nothing to global warming, people whose greenhouse gas emissions are essentially zero. And you’ve got another 2½ billion or more whose emissions are very slight. So it’s not about what individuals are doing but what giant corporations are doing. Or the US military and the British military—they have a bigger impact on climate than any million people you would come across.”

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