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Revised climate Bill is a step forward but now comes the hard part

Voice Of EU



The revised draft of the climate action Bill published by the Government this week goes a long way to addressing weaknesses in a previous draft published last autumn. It is not perfect – no legislation is. There is an opportunity to strengthen some of the language during its passage through the legislative process. But it is also important that the Bill be enacted soon.

There are a number of notable improvements in the new draft. The language around the 2050 climate target has been strengthened. The Bill includes the programme for government commitment of a 51 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 by specifying that the first two carbon budgets recommended by the Climate Change Advisory Council must provide for this level of reduction. In theory the Government could deviate from this recommendation, but to do so it would have to ignore both the advisory council’s advice and its own core programme for government commitment, which seems utterly implausible.

There is a welcome inclusion of biodiversity in the new text. There is also new language on climate justice and just transition. Some of these provisions could be stronger and the legislative process will provide an opportunity to strengthen this language. The nomination of Patricia King, general secretary of ICTU, to the revamped Climate Change Advisory Council will also help to enhance the belated focus on just transition.

For some the main purpose of a climate law is to provide an appropriate yardstick against which to measure government (in)action

Much of the commentary on the Bill has centred on its level of ambition. Some view it as not doing enough, others that it sets extremely challenging targets that may not be achievable. It is perfectly possible to hold both of these views at once: that the Bill is both very challenging and not enough.

There is strong evidence to support the position that 51 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 isn’t enough. According to the United Nations environment programme, global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by 7.6 per cent every year this decade to stay below the Paris agreement limit of 1.5°C. As a wealthy country that has failed to do its fair share to date, there is a compelling argument that Ireland should go further than this.

Steep trajectory

On the other hand, no country has enshrined in law as steep a decarbonisation trajectory over one decade as is provided for in the climate Bill. Of course, part of the reason the planned trajectory for the next decade is so steep is because Ireland has done so little to address climate change to date.

The level of ambition – as expressed in legally-enshrined targets – has important implications for the functioning of the system envisaged by the climate Bill, but this depends how we understand the purpose of the climate Bill.

For some – particularly those who simply do not trust government to deliver on climate-action targets – the main purpose of a climate law is to provide an appropriate yardstick against which to measure government (in)action and to punish failed delivery on climate targets. Viewed from this perspective, targets should be set purely in line with climate science, regardless of how achievable those targets are considered to be.

An alternative way to view the climate Bill is as a framework that enables government and society to undertake meaningful climate action

According to this view, legal accountability provides a mechanism to force a recalcitrant government to mend its ways. But there is a limit to what litigation can deliver. It can certainly be used to compel government to write better climate plans. This was the case last year, when the Supreme Court quashed the 2017 national mitigation plan. It is less likely that litigation can be used successfully to force a recalcitrant government to actually implement climate policies, particularly if these are politically unpopular.

There is nothing sacrosanct about the law. Compliance with legal obligations, and with court judgments, is ultimately a political decision for any government. If the political cost of compliance is judged to be greater than the political cost of non-compliance, a government will most likely opt for non-compliance. Precise obligations enshrined in law raise the political cost of non-compliance, but they are unlikely by themselves to ensure that targets will be met, or that effective remedy will be available in case of non-compliance.


An alternative way to view the climate Bill is as a framework that enables government and society to undertake meaningful climate action. This perspective presupposes a belief that there is at least some chance of meaningful climate action. From this starting point, the level of ambition enshrined in law becomes a balancing act between what climate science dictates and what our understanding of prevailing political, institutional and societal constraints will permit.

From this perspective, there is an inherent danger in setting climate targets that are widely considered to be unachievable. If the governance system established under climate legislation is asked to bear the weight of targets that the system believes to be completely unachievable, then the system itself may break down because policymakers won’t take it seriously.

When it comes to climate the best time to start was decades ago. The second-best time to start is now

This line of reasoning runs a significant risk of becoming enslaved to the status quo. Additionally, our collective understanding of what is politically and societally feasible is not fixed. One solution to this challenge is to set “stretch targets” that are somewhat – but not entirely – beyond what we collectively believe to be achievable.

The most important thing now is for the Government – and society – to get on with the business of delivering decarbonisation. The 2015 climate act was eight years, and two governments, in the making. We are now nine months into the lifetime of the Government. There is an opportunity to strengthen some of the Bill’s language as it passes through the legislative process, but it is also important that it be enacted soon.

Time is not on our side. When it comes to climate the best time to start was decades ago. The second-best time to start is now.

Dr Diarmuid Torney is an associate professor in the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

Voice Of EU



Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

Voice Of EU



Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.

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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

Voice Of EU



House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites and, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.


This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.


“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.


Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”

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