Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath has said the Government’s €125 billion climate action plan is “not going to be easy” but changes were necessary to protect the planet for future generations.
The Government will unveil plan on Thursday which will see fossil fuel heating systems no longer installed in public building and fresh targets for the electrification of the public transport fleet.
Sources said that the public sector would be asked to lead by example as Ireland seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 before achieving net-zero carbon emissions in 2050.
“We must do this, but it will require a transformative change. We will have to bring people with us, not bludgeon them,” Mr McGrath told Newstalk Breakfast.
The Minister said major changes would be needed across all sectors including in regulatory and planning systems for developments such as offshore wind, which were going through the Oireachtas at present. There will be a dedicated system in place, he said and he expected that by 2025 there will be offshore renewable projects up and running.
“There has to be certainty for the stakeholders who will be investing to show that we have the capacity to live up to our commitments,” he said. “These are the practical steps that need to be taken.”
Mr McGrath said there were a “whole range of solutions” to the climate crisis and he believed that emissions reduction targets for the agriculture sector were possible without the huge job losses that had been predicted by some lobby groups.
There was complementary funding from the EU to ensure that incomes would be there for farmers “to work with us”, he said.
Regarding the housing sector, Mr McGrath said Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan would be announcing a deep retrofitting programme for older homes which would "make it worth their while" for people to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
Minister of State for Climate Action Ossian Smyth has expressed concern that the emissions targets in the Climate Action Plan to be announced later today will be missed.
He said a very ambitious programme would be laid out which would be extra difficult to meet because of a “lost 10 years”. But he said “the difference now is political will”.
He also agreed with Labour climate action spokeswoman Ivana Bacik who said the Government keeps missing deadlines on climate action including a delay in publishing the climate action plan.
Mr Smyth said in the Dáil that she was right that Ireland was late in cutting emissions.
Taking questions for Mr Ryan, who is attending the Cabinet meeting on the action plan, he said “we’re a decade late. We’ve had 10 years of twiddling our thumbs. We finally have a very ambitious programme which will be must harder to achieve because of a lost 10 years.”
“We’re setting carbon budgets that go for 15 years, 10 years and then five years in draft. So we have to get it right,” he said.
“Since we’ve been doing nothing for 10 years it’s essential that we don’t finalise something for 2030 that isn’t going to work.”
Ms Bacik said there were problems with meeting targets and she cited a "really serious concern" about offshore wind targets following the withdrawal of Norwegian company Equinor from the Irish market over concerns about the regulatory and planning regime.
Mr Smyth said: “Deputy Bacik says that she’s worried about us missing targets and that’s my concern too.” The plans had been put in place but “delivery is the next stage”.
He said Equinor pulling out was disappointing but “they are one of dozens of companies involved in offshore”.
Sinn Féin climate action spokesman Darren O’Rourke said “we’ve been here before” with a very similar climate action plan two years ago although increased targets this time and not much programme.
Mr Smyth said that “the difference now is political will”. He said “everybody is up to speed on climate at this stage, all the politicians of all parties including the Opposition.
“There is a genuine sense that we want to achieve these things,” and “things will change in the environment. We set something in 2020 by 2025 the environment has changed.”
He said “we’re going to get there and we’re going to we’re going to get there through force of will”.