Government urged to turn "rhetoric into reality" as €22bn climate action plan announced

The plan will see carbon pricing and increases in carbon tax introduced in a "slow and steady way"

Government urged to turn "rhetoric into reality" as €22bn climate action plan announced

The Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten launching the new “Empowering Communities for Climate Action” plan, 20-06-2018. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

The government has outlined its plans for Ireland's efforts to tackle climate change.

Nearly €22bn is to be spent on the measures over the next ten years - one fifth of the Government's capital expenditure.

It comes after a new report ranked Ireland as the second worst country in the EU when it comes to tackling climate change.

The “Empowering Communities for Climate Action” plan launched by a raft of Government ministers today aims to support "behavioural change in individuals and communities across Ireland."

Environment Minister Denis Naughten outlines some of the changes we can expect at the launch this morning.

"We are banning the sale of new cars with tailpipes from 2030 ," he said.

"We are taking 'dirty' fossil fuels out of electricity generation by 2030. We are going to take 'dirty' fossil fuels out of our heating systems."

While burning any fossil fuel is hugely damaging to the climate, some are viewed as worse than others. Coal is viewed as the 'dirtiest' followed by oil and finally natural gas.

However many researchers have warned that the classification of gas as 'clean' is having a disastrous impact on climate policies.

Funding

Minister Naughten said the investment is based on projected growth in the economy - but warned increases in carbon tax and regulatory changes would also be required.

"Government alone cannot put the amount of investment that is needed to actually meet our 2030 targets, our 2040 targets and our 2050 targets," he said.

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said carbon pricing and increases in carbon tax will be introduced "in a slow and steady way - in phases - so it doesn't cost jobs, reduce living standards or increase poverty."

First step

Environmental group Friends of the Earth welcomed the announcement as a "good step" but warned long-term follow through will be required.

"I really hope that today is a turning point on climate policy in Ireland," said the group's director Oisin Coghlan.

"It's a good step to have the Taoiseach and ministers line up to talk about climate action, public investment and community engagement.

"Now we need to see the consistent follow-up that turns that rhetoric into reality."

He called for the introduction of a "payment for small-scale solar electricity that would allow communities turn schools, parish halls and sports clubs into locally-owned power plants."

"Why wait until the EU makes us do it? Let's do it now and unleash the community demand for local power that's definitely there," he said.

Tinkering

Following the announcement, The Green Party warned that the Government was simply "tinkering around the edges of the economy" while a complete economic transition is needed.

The  party's spokesperson on climate change, Councillor David Healy said the measures are "welcome in themselves; however, they do not go far enough."

“In the electricity generation sector, the Government has still failed to take the necessary decision to stop subsidising the burning of peat to generate electricity," he said.

He said investment in retrofitting for the housing sector is "vital and should be increased" but warned that new building regulations have failed to ban the installation of new fossil fuel heating systems.

"So, while one Government department is spending billions to take them out, developers can still put fossil-based systems into new developments," he said.

He said the Government had delayed public transport investment for years, and is "now pointing to finally going ahead with projects as some sort of change."

He urged lawmakers to follow the Citizens' Assembly recommendations and " spend twice as much on public transport as on private motor transport."

Finally, he said the plan for Its forestry policy is business as usual instead of the step change to large scale mixed continuous cover forestry and restoring which we require.

“The Government needs to realise that our climate challenge will not be met by tinkering around the edges of the policy changes required.”