Climate action plan welcomed as ‘substantial step-change’

Richard Bruton says result of 183 listed actions will defossilise and decarbonise Ireland

Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton: the plan will involve a “radical change in the way we do things” and Ireland will  no longer be a laggard on climate change. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton: the plan will involve a “radical change in the way we do things” and Ireland will no longer be a laggard on climate change. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The climate action plan published by the Government on Monday represents a “substantial step-change”, Richard Bruton has said.

The Minister for Climate Action said the plan, which lists 183 actions, would deliver substantial reductions in carbon emissions between now and 2030.

The plan includes pledges to move towards renewable wind and solar energy, to have one million electric vehicles in the State, to phase out gas and oil boilers, to increase afforestation, and to retrofit 500,000 homes. Mr Bruton said these measures would help to defossilise and decarbonise Ireland.

“The step-change is in every area. If you look at the level of renewables on the grid, we have stepped up from 55 per cent to 70 per cent. We will only have 30 per cent fossil fuels.

“In transport we have speeded up our ambitions for cycling and public transport networks and committed to one million [electric vehicles].”

Mr Bruton said the plan would involve a “radical change in the way we do things” and would mean Ireland is no longer a laggard on climate change.

He said the plan had emphasised the next decade as the period in which change could be brought about in a way that was “most economic and would create the least burden on our people”.

Mr Bruton said the plan was being funded through Project Ireland 2040, which has a budget of €30 billion for public transport and other climate measures over the next 20 years.

‘Right thing’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the new policies would involve “nudging people and business to make the right decision and make it simpler and cheaper to do the right thing”.

The plan was not devised simply to meet targets, but because it was the “right thing” to do, he said. “We will have warmer homes, cleaner air, shorter commutes.”

However, Opposition politicians were critical of the plan, claiming it was not costed, not ambitious enough, vague on policy measures and discriminated against rural families. They pointed to the lack of public transport in rural areas and a much higher dependency on oil for heating than in urban areas.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar get set to announce their climate action plan. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar get set to announce their climate action plan. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The Taoiseach, asked about the potentially disproportionate impact on rural Ireland, denied there was a simple binary divide between urban and rural. He said people in rural Ireland often worked near where they lived, while people who worked in cities often commuted long distances.

The Taoiseach said the Government’s controversial broadband plan would actually help reduce carbon emissions. “If you want people in rural Ireland to reduce their commutes and work from home then you need that investment that works in favour of climate change.”

Fianna Fáil spokesman Timmy Dooley gave the plan a “guarded welcome” but criticised the fact that neither it nor many of its measures were costed.

Fuel poverty

He said the move towards public transport needed to be more ambitious. He also argued there should be no increase in carbon tax unless fuel poverty measures were put in place first.

“You cannot just produce a report with a level of ambition and then not be prepared to follow it through,” he said. “The Government is giving the impression that you can do all this and there is no cost to it. Tough decisions will have to be taken.”

Green party leader Eamon Ryan said he too welcomed the plan, but said there was a lack of ambition, clarity and urgency.

“We can’t continue with the current national development plan which is all about roads,” he said. “The question I would ask of the Government is show us the money. Where is the change in the budget coming, where’s the change in the national development plan?

“The third element is that we said we need a new land-use plan. We need to actually plan out where’s the forestry going to go, what type of forestry, where are we going to preserve the bogs, what type of farming and where.”

Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanly said the plan lacked ambition and also over-burdened poorer families.

Bríd Smith of People Before Profit also criticised the lack of ambition in the plan, pointing out the Dáil had passed her motion declaring that Ireland is facing a climate emergency.