Naughten says laws and taxes will be used so Ireland meets its climate obligations

Environment conference hears Ireland is facing an emergency if it continued to produce waste at current levels

 Denis Naughten: he said the Government has pledged €22bn   under the National Development Plan to tackle climate change

Denis Naughten: he said the Government has pledged €22bn under the National Development Plan to tackle climate change

 

Legislation and taxes will be used to ensure that Ireland will meet its international climate change obligations, the Minister for Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, has said.

Rejecting charges that Ireland’s actions so far have been “a total failure”, Mr Naughten said the Government has pledged €22 billion under the National Development Plan to tackle climate change.

Significant work has been done to encourage renewable energy and cut carbon emissions, though he accepted in a speech to the Environment Ireland conference that more remained to be done to meet binding 2030 targets.

Favouring a minimum price for carbon, Mr Naughton, however, would not comment on speculation that next week’s budget will see extra carbon taxes on coal, oil, peat and gas.

A United Nations report on Monday is set to warn that not enough is being done by governments around the world to ensure that global warming is kept to within 1.5 degrees.

Mr Naughten said his current priority was to put in place a climate and energy plan (NECP) for Ireland out to 2030. The Government was awaiting final indication of terms and conditions from the European Commission for the NECP.

If alterations were necessary after that arising from climate projections, they would be made, he said.

Ireland was facing an emergency if it continued to produce waste at current levels because there were not enough landfills. Waste companies would soon collect food and organic waste from villages with more than 500 people.

He said switching to pay-by-weight collection, rather than flat fees, encouraged homes to recycle and compost, adding that he favoured accelerating the introduction of a ban on single-use plastic bar limited exceptions.

‘Bad mothers’

Commenting on the state of Ireland’s environment, the Environmental Protection Agency director general Laura Burke said more must be done by all sections of the population.

The Irish “are good midwives, but bad mothers”, she said, adding that people pay great attention to new laws, but fail to follow through on ensuring that they are implemented properly.

She said the shift to a low carbon, environmentally sustainable economy by 2050 will require a fundamental change in society and in behaviour by every single person in the country.

Currently raw sewage was being pumped into waters near 44 popular locations along the Wild Atlantic Way, while peat continued to be harvested for poor quality fuel.

The latter damaged the environment, removed “valuable carbon sinks, creating related carbon losses, and it costs the citizen more per unit in subsidies than any other fuel. We can do better than this.”

Pressures

She said strong economic and population growth were putting pressures on land, water supply, sewage treatment, raw materials and waste management.

“We must not repeat the mistakes of our past and ensure we grow sustainably, which must include rigorous implementation, and the safeguarding, of environmental policy.”

In 2017, the EPA received over 1,000 complaints – three-quarters of them dealt with odour and noise. Some 1,500 inspections were made, resulting in 22 prosecutions and €200,000 in fines and costs awarded.

Ms Burke said such money would have been better spent complying with regulations. The food and drink industry has the worst record, even though it “promotes itself on the clean green image of Ireland”.