Most of the massive €125 billion cost of the new Climate Action Plan will be borne by private individuals, households and the private sector and not by the State, the three Coalition leaders have confirmed.
The far-reaching and radical plan, published on Thursday, sets out 475 separate actions to halve Ireland’s greenhouse emissions by 2030, including extensive offshore wind power, retrofitting 500,000 homes and putting a million electric vehicles (EVs) on Irish roads.
At a press conference in Government Buildings, Taoiseach Micheál Martin predicted it would require people to accede to “a profound change” in lifestyle over the coming decade. He said it would mean adaptations to homes and that workplaces and communities must all adapt and change. However, he added that if successful it would benefit this generation, and future generations, of Irish people.
However, Mr Martin, and the other two party leaders in the Coalition, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Climate Change and Transport Eamon Ryan, emphasised that the bulk of the funding would come from business and from the pockets of individuals and households. They insisted it would involve spending that would happen in any instance but it would now be repurposed because of the plan.
“That €125 billion is primarily private investment,” Mr Ryan said. “It is an investment that will take place in any case, people buying cars, people improving their homes. A lot of what we want to do is [get people to] switch, from a combustion engine to an EV; and from an ordinary refurbishment [of a house] to one that puts energy efficiency into the project.”
He said that the largest portion of public finance would be spent by the ESB and EirGrid in upgrading the grid. He also said that the National Development Plan published last month had committed €35 billion of public money to transport and almost €13 billion to climate change during this decade.
Mr Martin said that with EVs, most of that cost would be borne by the motorist though there would be grants and some supports. “Likewise, with retrofitting there will be a balance between grants and support from the State balanced with some private-sector funding,” he said. No details have been outlined as yet of future grants. Mr Varadkar said the previous government had considered introducing a scrappage scheme to encourage people to buy EVs. He said no such scheme was included in this plan but it might be considered in future. He said nobody was going to “coerce” people to buy EVs and retrofit homes but the plan would put the “right incentives and disincentives” in place to tip the balance in favour of those decisions.
The Green Party leader accepted that transport’s aim of having a million EVs on the road by 2030, made it the sector that would find it hardest to meet its targets.
The 200-page plan outlines ambitious targets for energy, electricity, transport and the built environment but modest cuts for agriculture (between 22 per cent and 30 per cent). The primary focus in that sector will be a sharp reduction in the use of chemical fertilisers and an increase in organic farming. There are no specific proposals for how the national herd will be stabilised.
Mr Martin said there was “an obsession with the issue of the herd”. He said food production was important and argued “agriculture would play its part in terms of the reduction of emissions”.
Sinn Féin described the plan as high on rhetoric and short on detail and would place unfair burdens on ordinary people. Its spokesman on climate, Darren O’Rourke, said the party supported the Climate Action Bill and carbon budgets but in a way “that is fair and which has social justice at its heart”. The party has opposed all increases in carbon tax since 2019.
The Environmental Pillar spokeswoman Karen Ciesielski said if the Government met only the lower range in each sector, it would not achieve the 51 per cent cut by 2030. However, she added: "There are definite welcome developments including the promotion of organic farming, the proposed drop in nitrogen fertiliser and proposals for the circular economy."