Ireland will become leader on climate change, claims Taoiseach

‘The Government does not underestimate the scale of the challenge,’ says Varadkar

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe agreed that meeting the climate challenge was not only in the national interest, but it was also “our national obligation”.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe agreed that meeting the climate challenge was not only in the national interest, but it was also “our national obligation”.

 

Ireland has a longer journey to travel in tackling climate change than many other countries, but Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has reiterated his intention that the country will become a global leader in protecting the planet and making it “healthy and great again”.

Speaking on a platform with four senior ministers at Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar said the road was laid out for the next decade by the National Development Plan (NDP), backed by an unprecedented commitment of €22 billion for climate actions.

But the transition to a low carbon world would require “profound changes in how we live our lives and that will only be possible with the support of communities and individuals”, he told a large gathering of representatives from community groups; NGOs, State agencies and public servants.

The harder course for Ireland was, he said, “for reasons to do with the nature of our economy and stage of economic development; our large agriculture sector and the fact that we didn’t have any dirty industries to close down”.

“The Government does not underestimate the scale of the challenge...Earlier this year I talked about the need for Ireland to be a leader in climate action - and I meant it,” he said.

Smokey coal

This would mean many things such as a ban on smokey coal; taking peat and coal off the power grid, banning diesel and petrol car tailpipes from 2030, investing in renewable heating and deep retrofit on public buildings and homes.

It also meant carbon pricing and increases in carbon tax, “but this will have to done in a slow and steady way so it does not cost jobs, reduce living standards or increase poverty”.

However the challenge also required significant behavioural change and some tough decisions or trade-offs by government, by business, by communities and by individuals.

“It requires citizen and community engagement – from planning for renewable energy projects through to individual purchasing decisions; and it requires us to work collaboratively so that we capitalise on the ideas and the expertise that exists in different sectors and disciplines.”

Minister for Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten said effective change was putting the levers for climate action into people’s hands. “Project Ireland 2040 represents a significant step-change in our approach, both in scale of our ambition and funding that we’re making available to meet the challenges. Well over €1 in every €5 is to be spent under the NDP on climate mitigation and adaptation.”

“While Government has a leadership role, we also recognise that we don’t have a monopoly on the solutions for the societal transformation required for Ireland to become a low carbon and climate resilient society,” he added.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the allocation of specific resources over the next decade under the NDP marked an end to “the promise of additional resources at some point in the future” for key strategic areas. He agreed with the view that meeting the climate challenge was not only in the national interest, but it was also “our national obligation”.

Resource commitments

The approach required “integrated planning decisions” combined with resource commitments. This would only work with the full commitment of society, he said. It necessitated, for example, good planning decisions on locating public transport where new homes, offices and public facilities were being located.

Investing in low carbon technologies and infrastructure, and on climate resilience “is perhaps the most prudent investment there is in our collective future”, Mr Donohue added.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said Agriculture would play its part achieving climate objectives, where it “does not threaten our capacity for sustainable food production”. The sector was unique in its ability to sequester carbon, and would help meet renewable energy targets, notably in generating biogas and electricity capable of being fed into the grid.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said Project 2040 added a “decisive shift away from carbon-intensive transport by electrifying more of the rail network, with a commitment to stop buying diesel only buses, and through earmarking investments to support the transition to zero emission capable cars”.