Rowing back on climate actions ‘worst thing for this country to do’, says Eamon Ryan

Leaked European Council draft document on bloc’s five-year strategic agenda condemned by green groups

Any move to row back on climate actions in Ireland going into elections this year “would be the last and worst thing for this country to do”, Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan said on Monday.

Asked if new Taoiseach Simon Harris was less committed to climate action, Mr Ryan said weakening climate actions was not in the best interests of the Irish economy.

The same applied to the European Union (EU), he said at an EU transport conference in Dublin’s RDS. A leaked European Council draft document on the bloc’s five-year strategic agenda that will act as a policy blueprint for the incoming European Commission, has been condemned by green groups as undermining the European green deal. It is due to be signed off on Thursday by member states.

This should not be allowed happen “not just because of the environmental imperative, but switching to low carbon actually benefits your society in many ways”, he said. “A car-based transport system, high in emissions doesn’t work for anyone. It’s gridlocked. So we have to make that change anyway.”


“We have huge opportunity by switching to our own [renewable] fuels. Importing fossil fuels from Russia or the Middle East doesn’t benefit or protect our economy. Any attempt to water that down or not to meet our targets won’t be acceptable, either in Europe or here at home,” he added.

Mr Ryan acknowledged some countries had pulled back from commitments on the nature restoration law.

“It’s really worrying that some of the latest draft strategies coming out of the council presidency in advance of the meeting of heads of Government this Thursday seem to have ignored the environmental imperative. Europe’s future will not be competitive if it tries to stop going green.”

People would not be better off, he said, in terms of health, wealth or wellbeing by taking such a course.

“So we have to look at this at a European scale, not just in Ireland, and I do think we face a choice. The European elections coming up are all about do you keep going green or do you stop?

“There are a large number of parties and individuals who want to press the pause button. I think the Irish people and the European electorate if going to have to decide. That is the key question in the European elections,” he said.

The draft indicates environmental legislation is slipping down the EU policy agenda as European leaders focus on industrial competitiveness and defence – and Hungary prepares to take the helm of the rotating EU presidency.

The list suggests environmental matters will be relegated below issues of defence, immigration and food security in the next legislative cycle, while Hungary has made it clear the green deal will not be a priority when it takes over the presidency in July, and Belgian premier Alexander De Croo warned of the huge cost of implementation.

The internal working draft of the EU’s strategic agenda up to 2029 sets out three priority areas, with the first being promotion of a “strong and secure Europe”, where actions include reducing external trade dependencies and building up military defensive capability.

There is no explicit mention of the green deal, while “accelerating the energy transition” is presented in section two – “a prosperous and competitive Europe” – as a means to increase Europe’s energy sovereignty.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times