Approval of the transport strategy for Dublin — which includes a planned increase in emissions — “mocks” the Paris Climate Accord by ignoring national policy and legislation on climate change, Friends of the Irish Environment have said.
The Department of Transport — which approved the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area compiled by the National Transport Authority — has denied the claim.
But Friends of the Irish Environment, which was formed by a group of environmental activists in 1997 who felt that European law was not being recognised in Ireland, said that a reduction of emissions was not even a priority in the drawing up of the strategy.
While Friends of the Irish Environment focuses on the overall emissions and not the project detail of the strategy, others have critised elements such as the inclusion of planning for the Eastern bypass of Dublin City, which is opposed by most councillors.
“Just as two superpowers agree to the Paris Accord, our country is manifestly not on track to meet those targets as the main elements of expenditure identified in the strategy will all lead to increased — not decreased — emissions,” said Friends of the Irish Environment in a statement.
The statement was released last month but it seems like the issue was not covered by any large media outlet.
The group said that in adopting the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area the Minister for Transport has breached his legal obligations under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act to “have regard to’ the objective of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions”. The group also claims it “entirely ignored” the reorientation of national transport policy undertaken by the Government in 2009 with the policy ‘Smarter Travel A Sustainable Transport Future – A New Transport Policy for Ireland 2009-2020’.
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“The Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area predicts increased numbers of motor vehicle trips, increased lengths of trips and increased emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants damaging to public health”, said Friends of the Irish Environment.
It added: “Governments have continued to pay lip service to reducing green house gas emissions but have ignored policies put in place to ensure that Ireland meet these targets. The current Statement of Strategy (2015-2017) fails to even mention the targets established in 2009.”
The group points to statistic from the Environmental Protection Agency which predicts increase in the transport sector emissions by 19% between 2013 and 2020 and a further 20% over the period 2020 to 2035.
The statement added: “Under current government policies, there will be no reductions to agricultural emissions while transport emissions will increase by about 40% between 2013 and 2035. It’s very hard not to feel that Ireland is mocking the Paris Climate Accord just as China and the United States commit their nations to honour it.”
The group has recommended to the Minister that the Statement of Strategy explicitly reference the obligations imposed by the recent Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act and the targets in Smarter Travel and set out how those obligations and targets will be met by the Department.
A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: “The Department does not accept that it did not fulfil its statutory obligations when recommending approval of the NTA Transport Strategy for the GDA.”
“In making its recommendation in relation to the Strategy submitted by the NTA for approval by the then Minister, Mr Paschal Donohoe, the Department noted that the Strategy highlighted the likelihood that the ambition of Smarter Travel would not be realised by its target date of 2020 given the level of funding which has been, and will be, available over the period since its publication in 2009 to its target date of 2020. The Department commented that while the implementation of the Strategy undoubtedly yielded benefits, it did not suggest a transformative change in travel patterns.”
He added: “In terms of carbon emissions, it was noted that the Strategy favoured transport options that will reduce carbon emissions and that implementation of its objectives is forecast to deliver savings from transport related carbon emissions. The finalised Strategy stated that the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 includes provisions for the preparation of a ‘national mitigation plan’ and a ‘national adaptation framework’, which will establish energy related targets and actions to be adopted across the transport sector. The Strategy commits to incorporating relevant targets and actions arising from that Act and related policies in the area of transport energy within its statutory Integrated Implementation Plans.”
“The Departmental review of the Strategy noted that it provided a comprehensive and evidence based approach toward promotion of the integrated development of transport infrastructure and services within the GDA and represented an important step forward in fulfilment of the NTA’s statutory role as outlined in the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008. The Department took the view that the Strategy played a fundamentally important role in establishing the framework for the transport network and services necessary to achieve the land-use vision set out in the regional planning guidelines for the GDA,” the spokesman said.