What’s been happening with the CETA trade deal?
Back in February of this year, CETA – the controversial trade deal between the EU and Canada – was the subject of an emergency motion unanimously passed by Clare County Council
The motion – which called on the Irish Government “to allow a full, open and democratic debate, including pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Oireachtas Committee”, ahead of the Dáil vote on ratification of CETA – was initiated by Clare PPN, on foot of a request by a majority of member groups in our Environmental College.
Clare PPN member groups were very concerned at the lack of public debate and political scrutiny of CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) and were particularly troubled by the Investor Court System (ICS) element of CETA and the ‘regulatory chill’ effect it would have on policymaking on a wide range of issues, including the environment, public health, economic and human rights.
Several other local authorities passed similar motions at about the same time. These, and a broad civil society campaign against CETA’s investor court system, resulted in the Government referring the matter to the the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs for further scrutiny. Several other Oireachtas committees are also scheduled to scrutinise the ICS element of CETA before a vote on ratification.
A Dáil vote on ratification of CETA had been due to take place in December in 2021 but was postponed when several Green Party TDs indicated they would vote against it. There is still no word on when the Government may try to have CETA ratified by the Dáil, but in March Green Party TD Patrick Costello lodged a High Court challenge against the Government over the constitutionality of the parts of CETA that provide for the establishment of ‘investor courts’. His case is that the investor court system involves an unconstitutional transfer of sovereignty and judicial power. A hearing date of July 13th has now been set for this High Court action, which is scheduled to run for four days. You can read more about the court case here:
Earlier this month (June), Sinn Féin Senator Senator Lynn Boylan also launched a High Court action against the Government’s implementation of CETA. Although similar to Mr Costello’s action against the State, the legal argument is technically different. Ms Boylan’s case focuses on the committee that would be set up as part of the investor court, which she argues can amend the rules or access to the court without Oireachtas oversight. Read more about Boylan’s case here:
On May 26th, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar appeared before the committee on European Affairs to answer questions about CETA. He argued that delaying ratification would send a message of a “waning commitment to free trade”. Committee member, Independent Senator Alice Mary Higgins said that she found it surprising that there has not been a risk analysis on the impact of CETA on the national finances. Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan said that the investor court system’s costs would be “quite substantial”. She said that France, Germany, Netherlands and Italy among others had not finished ratifying the treaty, so it was not the case that Ireland was “a laggard”. The committee is continuing its scrutiny of CETA.
You can read more information about CETA prepared by the Comhlámh Trade Justice Group:
Submission on National Waste Management Plan for a Circular Economy
Clare PPN and Clare Environmental Network have made a joint submission in respect of the pre-drafting of the National Waste Management Plan for a Circular Economy. You can read a copy of the submission here:
Clare TD Lobby for Climate Action – what now?
On December 7th Clare PPN co-hosted online meetings with each of Clare’s four TDs, as part of a nationwide ’TD Lobby for Faster & Fairer Climate Action’. This ‘mass lobby’, organised by the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, has happened in previous years at a venue next to Leinster House in Dublin, but this was the first time the event took place online. This had the advantage of far more people taking part – nationally, more than 1,000 people joined Zoom calls with their local TDs, to tell them how urgent the need for radical climate action is.
We also had a great turnout here in Clare and we had very meaningful and constructive discussions with our four Dáil representatives. (The above image is from the meeting with Cathal Crowe TD.)
One of the organisers of the Clare TD lobby, Romie Cullen of Tuamgraney, was quoted in an Irish Times article about the event:
“People from our community are taking part because we’re alarmed about loopholes in the climate Bill. We’ll be asking our TDs to do everything they can to make the new climate law as strong as possible to drive the rapid and just transition we need to zero pollution. The draft Bill as it stands today is simply not good enough.”
The key demand was for TDs to sign a letter, drafted by Stop Climate Chaos, and to send it to Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan. The letter highlights concrete steps the Government can immediately take to kickstart a decade of faster and fairer climate action, including closing the glaring loopholes in the Climate Action Bill and acting urgently to cut emissions in all sectors.
By the way, the Climate Action Bill has been undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA), which has just published its report on the Bill. You can download it here.
And Stop Climate Chaos has published its response to the Committee’s report: ‘Today’s recommendations, if accepted by Government, would greatly strengthen the draft Climate Bill‘
During the meetings with TDs, participants in Clare also raised several other issues:
• Plans for Moneypoint power station, for example, whether it can be used as part plans for offshore wind or tidal energy.
• The proposed Shannon LNG gas import terminal on the Shannon Estuary and the wider issue of the possible importation of fracked gas elsewhere in Ireland.
• Another issue raised with TDs was the lack of engagement by Clare County Council with environmental submissions made to the council by member groups of Clare Environmental Network and Clare PPN. Some of the TDs offered to help raised awareness about this problem.
The first Zoom call was with Cathal Crowe (FF), who said he would advocate against allowing the importation of fracked gas to Ireland, He also raised the issue of Irish Cement’ proposed incinerator at its plant in Mungret, Limerick, and he asked the group to lodge objections with the EPA.
Joe Carey (FG) promised to raise the urgency of strong and effective climate action with Minister Eamonn Ryan.
Violet-Anne Wynne (SF) has agreed to sign the above-mentioned letter to the three Government party leaders. At the time of writing she is the only Clare TD who has undertaken to sign the letter. The others said they would read it and consider signing it.
Our final call was with Michael McNamara (Ind). He promised to raise the issue of fracked gas imports with the government party leaders, and he suggested that he could table an amendment to the Climate Action Bill, when it comes before the Dáil next year.
All four TDs agreed to meet the group again in the new year for further discussions on climate action. Nationally, Stop Climate Chaos is awaiting developments with the Climate Action Bill – there may be further mass lobbying of TDs in late January or February.
If you would like to be involved in the group’s further discussions with our TDs, please email: clareTDlobby@gmail.com
Clare PPN’s work report from 2020
Please click on the link below to read Clare PPN’s work report which was presented to our plenary meeting on December 8th 2020.
Draft Community Wellbeing Vision Statements for County Clare:
Beginning in October 2020 Clare Public Participation Network conducted a process of creating Community Wellbeing Visions for Clare. The process involved consultation with the general public via an online survey, consultation and appraisal of the results of this survey with Clare PPN members at our October Plenary Meeting, and this was then followed by eight online meetings – two held in each of Clare’s four Municipal Districts.
Following the above three steps Clare PPN staff compiled the attached Draft Community Wellbeing Vision Statements -there are five in total with one being an overall summary which applies to County Clare as a whole and the four others each relating to one of Clare’s Municipal Districts. We are presenting these statements here in draft form and inviting our member groups to take the chance to read them and to propose any changes, additions or correct any omissions as you see fit.
These statements will be used to guide the work and priorities of Clare PPN staff and secretariat and our representatives on Committees. They will also be used along with further specific policy consultations to guide and inform submissions made by Clare PPN to local and national policies. We propose that these wellbeing vision statements will be kept as ‘open’ documents for Clare PPN and that they will be offered for consideration and review to members once per year so that we ensure they remain relevant and current.
For those who participated in our consultation process we would like to draw it to your attention that some of the very specific suggestions around actions or particular developments in the county were included in Clare PPN’s two submissions to the pre draft stage of Clare County Council’s County Development Plan. You can read those submissions here:
We are most grateful to all who participated in this worthwhile project so far and we encourage you to send any further thoughts or input to us by emailing email@example.com by January 15th 2020 after which these Community Wellbeing Visions will be deemed adopted.
Clare PPN County Level Wellbeing Vision Statement
Clare PPN Draft Wellbeing Vision Statement Ennis MD
Clare PPN Draft Wellbeing Vision Statement West Clare MD
Clare PPN Draft Wellbeing Vision Statement Killaloe MD
Clare PPN Draft Wellbeing Vision Statement Shannon MD