U-turn on electric buses evidence of Government’s shifting stance

Cantillon: State has particularly poor record of delivering on targets to tackle climate change

While other cities were announcing plans to switch their bus fleets from diesel to electric two years ago, Dublin Bus meekly sought finance to trial the use of cleaner electric vehicles only to have the idea shot down by government

While other cities were announcing plans to switch their bus fleets from diesel to electric two years ago, Dublin Bus meekly sought finance to trial the use of cleaner electric vehicles only to have the idea shot down by government

 

After kiboshing a plan by Dublin Bus to trial electric vehicles in 2016, the Government now intends to ban the semi-State from buying diesel-fuelled vehicles from 2019 – such is the nature of politics, lead-taking and the State’s often-confusing stance on climate change.

While Paris and other cities were busy announcing plans to switch their entire bus fleets from diesel to electric two years ago, Dublin Bus meekly sought finance to trial the use of cleaner electric vehicles only to have the idea shot down by government.

Now Government trumpets the same endeavour in its new development plan, albeit starting in two years’ time, as evidence of its seriousness in tackling climate change.

Undoubtedly the move to ban the purchase of all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, a decade ahead of the UK, is ambitious. The target of having at least 500,000 electric vehicles – a third of the State’s private transport fleet – on the road by the same date is also commendable.

But the Republic has a particularly poor record of delivering on these targets – remember the Fianna Fáil-Green coalition government in 2008 pledged to have 10 per cent of the fleet running on electricity by 2020 and we’re currently at around 0.7 per cent.

A concrete date for the phasing out of coal-use at the ESB’s Moneypoint plant – another high-profile element of the document – has been long overdue, and the latest pledge of 2025 is undercut by the fact that an alternative power source has not yet been identified but will probably be natural gas, which is cleaner than coal but still a fossil fuel.

The Government also estimated that the cost of transitioning the Co Clare plant to gas could be as high as €1 billion.

Meanwhile,the pledge to replace large-scale peat production with alternative energy sources by 2030 is decidedly unambitious, with activists suggesting most of the peat will be harvested by then.