"Nothing new" - Campaigners disappointed with Government's climate plan

The Government's new strategy contains 106 proposals aimed at lowering carbon emissions

"Nothing new" - Campaigners disappointed with Government's climate plan

Ministers launch Ireland’s first statutory National Mitigation Plan. Image: Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment / RollingNews.ie

Campaigners and opposition politicians have expressed disappointment with the Government's new plan for tackling climate change.

The new National Mitigation Strategy includes 106 proposals, which are aimed at lowering carbon emissions in line with global targets.

It includes a proposal to investigate a potential lowering of speed limits on motorways by 10km/h, and a grant to encourage heavy vehicle drivers to learn 'eco-driving' practices.

The strategy suggests a possible extension of the DART to Balbriggan, as well as various improvements across public transport services.

The proposals in the document cover a range of different groups, putting forward actions needed by Government, corporations and individuals. It has a heavy focus on sectors such as transport, agriculture and electricity generation.

In a statement announcing the plan's publication, Climate Action Minister Denis Naughten said Ireland is already 'playing catch-up' on climate change obligations.

He argued: "The Plan sets out the full range of measures already being undertaken to reduce our emissions but crucially it also provides the framework for further work that must now be undertaken by Government as a whole in the months ahead.

"On climate change, change is possible. Our role is to put the levers for change into peoples’ hands."

The Government also held an all-day meeting focused on climate change, and said the forthcoming budget and 10-year capital plan "will be informed by the need for Climate Action".

"More of an action promise than an action plan"

The plan has received a mixed response from many climate campaigners.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan says the new strategy is just a collection of previous goals, and contains "nothing new".

He suggested: "The Government says we're not meeting our targets because they were too ambitious. I think the reason we're not meeting them is that the Government was not ambitious enough.

"They say now that they want to put this centre stage... there's nothing in this plan that does it. They have to start acting and not just talking."

The Social Democrats claimed the plan "requires massive capital spending which is not available because [the Government] refuses to challenge EU spending rules", while People Before Profit's Bríd Smith said it was "a slap in the face to the environmental movement".

Sinn Féin's Brian Stanley said the plan was 'welcome but limited', explaining: “Alongside the effect on our environment, we are facing fines because of our inability to meet our 2020 targets. The SEAI estimate this as €65 to €130 million for every percentage point we are below our target for our renewable energy target.

"To make the change, we need solid processes to follow and binding targets.”

Oisin Coghlan of Friends of the Earth Ireland told Newstalk Drive that he "really wanted" the plan "to be good", but believes it is ultimately disappointing.

He observed: "It's more of an action promise than an action plan. That number of 106 actions sounds eye-catching... but a lot of them aren't new, and a lot of them aren't actually committed to.

"The bottom line is this plan doesn't add up to cutting pollution enough - never mind our 2020 targets, or progress towards 2030, or the Government's own ambition of being low carbon by 2050."

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik, however, was more positive about the new strategy.

While acknowledging that many of the proposals 'could be described as aspirational', she was encouraged by commitments to energy upgrades for social housing, public transport and cycling infrastructure.