Ireland needs to double down on climate measures in the face of the cost-of-living crisis, according to a Government minister.
It comes after an EU poll found three-in-five people in Ireland think we should push back our climate targets to deal with the ongoing energy crisis.
The Ireland and the EU poll suggests 58% of Irish people believe European countries should be permitted to delay meeting their climate targets.
Meanwhile, 86% of people said they were concerned the cost-of-living crisis was harming the EU economy.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the Minister of State for European Affairs Thomas Byrne said Ireland’s climate measures are more important than ever.
“We’re in a really difficult situation with energy at the moment and I think everybody is looking around for an easy answer or a possible out,” he said. “How do we escape this particular crisis?
“The reality is that the only way we escape this particular crisis is by doubling down on renewables, on our targets and trying to produce our own energy.
“That is what the Government is focused on because it is the only way to avoid the situation we have at the moment – with complete dependence, effectively, on Russian gas for the European Union.”
He said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine served to highlight the vulnerability of Europe’s energy supply.
“That really does mean we have to do a whole lot more on renewables,” he said. “For that reason, but also for that very, very important reason that there is an existential threat to the planet in the form of climate change.”
Minister Byrne admitted that the energy crisis is making it more difficult for businesses and households to think in a climate conscious way.
He said some businesses are even using fuel generators instead of the mains electricity at peak times due to the high prices.
“That is a worry,” he said. “That’s why the plans the Government is working on supporting businesses and families, not just with the budget but also at the European level with all the other European Governments.
“That’s going to be absolutely critical. The Government will be looking at direct supports and then at the EU level, we will actually be looking at taking money from the energy companies - both the renewables and the fossil fuel companies - to give it back to the people.”
He said there are also ongoing discussions at EU level about a potential price cap on gas, something Ireland is “certainly open to”.
“Really, we have to do a whole lot more and the Government wants to do a whole lot more on wind energy, particularly offshore,” he said. “Solar as well is being rolled out.
“That is really, really critical for our energy security.”
Main image is a split-screen of powerlines in Ringaskiddy, County Cork and European Affairs Minister Thomas Byrne.