‘Vulnerable will struggle to keep their homes warm’ – Richard Boyd Barrett

Budget 2022: Climate actions ramped up to include retrofitting houses, says Eamon Ryan

NGOs could identify ‘some wins for climate and biodiversity, but we still have a very long way to go’, said Environmental Pillar spokeswoman Karen Ciesielski.  Photograph: John Giles/PA Wire

NGOs could identify ‘some wins for climate and biodiversity, but we still have a very long way to go’, said Environmental Pillar spokeswoman Karen Ciesielski. Photograph: John Giles/PA Wire

 

Minister for Climate and Transport Eamon Ryan has insisted actions to address the climate crisis are being ramped up through a range of actions outlined in the budget – most notably in public transport investment and retrofitting houses.

Speaking at a briefing on Tuesday, he said the budget was part of a series of co-ordinated steps that includes a revised climate action plan due later this month.

A progressive element was using carbon tax revenues to retrofit 22,000 houses in 2022 at a cost of €202 million and to address fuel poverty, though he accepted the energy crisis brought a risk that people would incorrectly attribute increased energy prices to climate action.

He agreed with the EU position, that high energy prices should trigger increased adoption of renewable energy, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and, in turn, eliminate uncertainty for consumers.

In response to IFA criticism that the Government had reneged on its commitment to allocate €49 million of carbon tax money to agriculture, the Minister underlined “farmers have to be part of, and benefit from, the transition to a climate-neutral economy”.

A number of schemes would reward farmers for minding nature on their farms, he said, with details to be announced by the Minister for Agriculture.

He confirmed Ireland, as a member of the EU, was pledging to reduce its methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, as had been agreed with the US recently and backed by more than 25 countries.

Karen Ciesielski, spokeswoman for Environmental Pillar, said the coalition of environment NGOs could identify “some wins for climate and biodiversity, but we still have a very long way to go”.

Rising energy costs

Given the rising energy costs expected over coming months, it was essential that the Government take concrete steps to protect the most vulnerable, who may be facing fuel poverty and are unable to adequately heat their homes, she added.

“Crucially, we need to move much faster than we are. . . €202 million will be made available for home energy efficiency measures for 22,000 homes. While this development is welcome, we have a target of 600,000 homes to be energy efficient by 2030.

“We need much swifter action to meet this milestone, particularly in the face of a rising carbon tax,” Ms Ciesielski said.

Friends of the Earth welcomed the immediate increase in the fuel allowance but added “it is disappointing that the eligibility criteria haven’t been widened to include those on the working family payment”.

“Almost half of the increased carbon tax revenue will be spent on increasing the fuel allowance. That is an essential short-term measure.

“In the longer term the best protection from energy poverty is warmer homes, with lower bills, healthier air and reduced pollution. Therefore we call on the Government to focus their increased expenditure on retrofitting on social housing and the 20 per cent of households in energy poverty,” it added.

‘Hopelessly inadequate’

People Before Profit spokesman on finance and housing Richard Boyd Barrett said the budget was “hopelessly inadequate to address the cost-of-living crisis and the other major crises facing Irish society in housing, healthcare and climate change”.

“The massive hike in energy prices combined with the Government’s determination to go ahead with further carbon tax hikes means many of the least well-off and vulnerable will struggle to keep their homes warm and pay the bills over the coming year,” he said.

William Walsh, chief executive of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI)welcomed the “very significant focus on sustainable energy and climate action”.

“It is abundantly clear dramatic change is needed if we want to meet the climate challenge. Business as usual simply won’t do. Nothing short of a societal movement to ultimately end the use of fossil fuels is now required,” he said. “With the increased allocations and increased resources provided to SEAI, we look forward to supporting all energy users in their endeavours to reduce their use of fossil fuels. It is vital now that everyone responds – businesses, homeowners and communities alike.”