The bill states that a climate emergency exists while levels of Co2 in the atmosphere exceed 350 ppm. (350 ppm is the recognised safe level of atmospheric C02 widely accepted by the scientific community) and while this continues, the Minister would not issue any new licences for exploration of fossil fuels.
2017 is on track to be the hottest year on record and with increased incidents of extreme weather, droughts and heat waves, there is a real urgency in taking measures that address the causes of climate change.
In her Dáil speech moving the Bill Deputy Smith said, “I have just returned this week from the Bonn Cop23 conference, a conference that is supposed to ensure that the targets set out by the Paris treaty are met and improved upon.
“I was struck and frankly scared by the facts around climate change presented by the scientists at Bonn. And equally scared and flabbergasted by the political response not just from Ireland but by the majority of delegates and diplomatic representatives there.
“Aside from Trump and perhaps some members of the Dáil, there is widespread acceptance of the science around climate change.
“The earth is now 1 degree warmer than pre-industrial average and it is on course for an increase of 1.5 degrees. The level of carbon and other greenhouse gases being emitted by industry and land use change means in a business as usual scenario, we will be locked into a 3, 4 degree and higher temp rise.
“This is an extinction event; we already see the devastating consequences for large parts of the globe with Co2 levels at 44 parts per million PPM.
“Unfortunately, even if the Paris treaty commitments were delivered, we will still be on course for 2 degrees and possible 3 degrees global temp rises.
“Large parts of this globe, millions of people and whole ecosystems will face destruction.
“We know that 80% of the proved reserves of fossil fuels will need to remain in the ground if we are to have any hope of limiting temp rises in line with Paris treaty.
“Yet, incredibly we here and elsewhere are still issuing licences for the exploration of new sources of oil and gas.
“That has to stop. We have to politically name and shame the actual causes of climate change.
“It is the addiction of fossil fuel corporations to profits that are driving climate change, not the addiction of ordinary people to fossil fuels.
“Therefore this bill will simply mean that while such a climate emergency exists, no new licences will be issued for oil or gas exploration.
“It takes as its benchmark the figure of 350 ppm of Co2 as the max that humanity should seek to have in the atmosphere, anything above that it defines as a climate emergency. It is currently above 400 ppm, the first time is almost a million years of the earth’s history.
“This figure comes from scientists and campaigners such as James Hansen and Bill McKibben.
“It will represent a small step but a historic one. If we can follow it up with real investment in renewables and public transport we may improve our current standing as one of the worst countries in dealing with climate change”.