Government to scale up plan to tackle climate change, Bruton says

Policies to underpin plan detailing targets across government, Minister says

Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton said the unique challenge was “how to engage people” over a sustained period in responding to climate change. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton said the unique challenge was “how to engage people” over a sustained period in responding to climate change. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

A Government plan to be published in February will give a clear indication of a scaled-up ambition by Ireland to meet its obligations on tackling climate change, Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton has said.

Speaking to The Irish Times at the United Nations climate summit in Katowice, Mr Bruton said the plan would go through each sector and Government department in spelling out where more demanding targets were to be achieved and this would be underpinned by new policies.

It would signal a determination to meet 2030 targets on reducing carbon emissions and adopting renewable energy, he said. Up to now, there had been a preoccupation with how much it would cost if targets were missed, and this would mark a change in focus, he added.

Referring to the European Union’s plan for economies to be carbon neutral by 2050, he said: “By 2030, we want to be in a position where we can drive on for that . . . but we have a lot of work between this and then, especially in changing behaviour.”

Engagement

The unique challenge was “how to engage people” over a sustained period in responding to climate change. If the Government did not have a framework for that, it would fail. Carbon pricing and smart technologies had to be part of the mix, while the public sector had to be an exemplar.

Asked if he was a little unnerved by the recent “yellow vests” protest in France sparked by a move to increase carbon tax, he said it reminded him of the water charges issue in Ireland.

The French protests were “more symbolic of exasperation that has been being building for some time”. Climate policies would fracture, he believed, if communities and individuals were not on board.

The draft National Energy and Climate Plan, which must be submitted to the EU by the end of the year, would not be breaking new policy ground, he said. It would outline what climate policies were in place and what they would potentially deliver.

In his address to a plenary session addressed by environment ministers and heads of state, Mr Bruton accepted that coinciding with coming out of recession Ireland had not made the scale of adaptation to climate change necessary but Ireland would step up with a huge changes in coming years to ensure it lived up to its responsibilities.

“Every home, every worker, every enterprise, every public service has to buy into the concept that what they do matters; their leadership is going to make a difference if we are going to be successful.”

Determined

Mr Bruton said he would underline at a meeting with NGOs which are attending the “COP” – conference of the parties – that Ireland was determined to scale up ambition in responding to global warming and to meet 2030 targets, with the least disruption to communities.

Six weeks into his new role, he said the challenge was similar to the crisis some years ago, when 300,000 jobs were lost, which “seemed a very depressing landscape”. The first thing is to do was to look at ambition and the small-scale practical actions to deliver momentum.

On where negotiations were at for COP24, he believed there was a sense of optimism that there would be an agreement. There was sufficient momentum, especially as countries select their own targets and compliance obligations which encouraged engagement in the multilateral process.

“If we don’t act soon, it will have gone too far,” he said, adding the response required was “within our own capability”, and the technology needed was already available.