The Government's plan to respond to voter demands to do more to combat the threat of climate disruption will be published shortly, Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton has said.
The document, he said, would show that the Government was comprehensively ready to address the challenge in “a massive shift” away from fossil fuel-powered electricity, transport and heating.
Mr Bruton was commenting in advance of a Cabinet sub-committee meeting on Monday to consider “a very advanced draft” of the Government’s climate action plan, which is due to go to the full Cabinet shortly.
He said carbon tax was set to increase in the next budget, and a timetable for future changes would be set out in “a trajectory for carbon pricing”, which would put “a price on damage people are inflicting on the environment”.
Mr Bruton said the recommendations of the all-party Committee on Climate Action meant there was agreement the proceeds should be returned to people as a dividend or help them decarbonise.
The lesson for Fine Gael from the local and European Parliament elections was "the view our generation had lost the plot" on climate change, he said on RTÉ's Morning Ireland.
On questions about reports that his department is about to issue an exploration licence to ExxonMobil, he said exploration was not the problem but rather excessive dependence on fossil fuels.
The Government was bidding to have 70 per cent of Ireland’s power generation needs met by renewables, up from 30 per cent. Once reached, fossil fuels, notably gas, would still be needed “when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine”.
The Minister said he was attempting to find a path to ensure that the public, particularly the poor, would face the minimum burden possible, yet still deliver on demanding targets for 2030 and beyond.
Meanwhile, Stop Climate Chaos Coalition said the message from voters was a demand for leadership and the adoption of more demanding climate targets backed by legislation.
On Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s pledge to “accelerate climate action”, the coalition’s spokesman Oisín Coghlan said the litmus test would be if the Oireachtas committee’s recommendations were implemented “in full and on time”.
"It was good to hear Taoiseach Leo Varadkar say the Government had got the message. But it's worrying he still leads by talking about individual behaviour change.
“Ireland is not a climate laggard because the general public is against action. Ireland is a laggard because our governments have failed to act on the evidence and the expert advice.”
Campaigners have brought climate change to the doorstep. “Voters have sent a clear message that they want Ireland to do its fair share. Now we need politicians to take climate action from the doorstep to the statute book”.
He said a critical question would be whether the plan accepted that Ireland needed to get to net-zero emissions by 2050, and 2030 targets were strengthened in line with the Paris Agreement and advice from climate scientists.
There was also a need to commit to putting the committee’s recommendations on governance and setting carbon budgets into law by the end of the year.
The plan should seek to cut emissions in every sector, quantify emissions reduction for every measure, and “benchmark them against our existing 2030 target and our 2050 goal”.
The NGO Climate Case Ireland noted in a tweet that Mr Bruton’s had just issued an exploration licence to the China National Offshore Oil Corporation “three days after the #GreenWave election”.