Budget 2017: Climate change addressed for first time in seven years

Modest steps to help meet low-carbon economy target and begin fulfilling Paris Accord

Budget 2017: There is  a new measure to incentivise users of large vehicles to switch from diesel to natural gas.  File photograph: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Budget 2017: There is a new measure to incentivise users of large vehicles to switch from diesel to natural gas. File photograph: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

 

Virtually ignored since the economic collapse, the challenges presented by climate change have been addressed for the first time in seven years in this budget.

Both Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe outlined a number of specific, if modest, measures to help Ireland meet its mid-century target of a low-carbon economy, and to begin fulfilling its obligations under the Paris Accord.

However, those measures were derided by the Green Party as amounting to “next to nothing”, adding there was nothing in the budget that suggested a sustainable future.

Mr Noonan described climate change as the “global challenge” of our generation and he set out a number of measures.

Electric vehicles

They included extending a relief from vehicle registration on electric vehicles for five years, as well as extending the relief for hybrids for two years.

There is also a new measure to incentivise users of large vehicles to switch from diesel to natural gas. There is also a relief from carbon tax for all solid fuels that have a biomass element.

The Minister gave full relief to all fuel inputs to combined heat and power plants from carbon tax. They amount to 7 per cent of the State’s energy provision.

On the spending side, Mr Donohoe announced an additional €50 million in capital spending to assist the renewable heat incentive, better energy grants as well as the electric vehicles subsidy.

He said the fund for the Green Low-Carbon Agri Environmental Scheme (GLAS) was being increased by €69 million to €211 million.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan criticised what he portrayed as a lack of ambition on climate action.

‘Increasingly shamed’

“We are increasingly shamed in the international community for our lack of action on climate change. This budget makes things worse. There is no increase in overseas aid.

“There is no funding for major new public transport projects and no mention of investing in cycling and walking as more sustainable and healthy transport modes.

“There is no effort to reduce the sales of diesel cars and no new initiatives to set Ireland on the path to being a clean economy.

“There are many small improvements, which are of course welcome, but there is no strategic direction.”

Energy efficiency

Minister with Responsibility for Climate Change Denis Naughten announced an additional €24 million to expand energy efficiency programmes, and a €100 million spend on energy projects in 2017.

He said the best place to start was with large industrial heat users. This was why, he said, €7 million was being allocated to a new renewable heat incentive scheme.

At a media conference, Mr Naughten said 500 electric cars were on the road this year, with 1,000 being projected for next year.

He said there would be an additional 25,000 homes insulated in 2017, but accepted the Government would not reach the goal of having one million houses retrofitted and insulated by 2020.

“To date, 330,000 homes have been insulated (and retrofitted). The new investment will create 3,000 jobs. We are determined to drive forward in this area,” he said.

He referred to the renewable heat incentive scheme renewable heat incentive scheme and also spoke of the potential to create a market for renewable crops in the State.