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Climate summit: Government ‘goes green’ in New York

Inside Politics: Varadkar uses event as platform to outline Government policy to phase out fossil-fuel exploration

Addressing the UN Climate Action Summit, an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that Ireland is to phase out oil exploration as it is "incompatible with a low carbon future." Video: UN Web TV

Good morning.

For the second week in a row, Leinster House - just back from its summer recess - will play second fiddle to another theatre of Irish political action.

Last week, TDs, Ministers and party leaders left a sparsely populated Dáil behind to attend the National Ploughing Championships in Fenagh, Co Carlow.

A third of the Cabinet has gone slightly further afield this week. The Taoiseach - as well as Simon Coveney, Richard Bruton, Simon Harris and Katherine Zappone - are all in New York for the UN climate summit and General Assembly.


Varadkar yesterday used the climate summit platform to outline a new Government policy to end fossil-fuel exploration, making Ireland one of the first countries in the world to phase out oil and gas production. The Irish Times leads on Varadkar's pledge, with Kevin O'Sullivan and Suzanne Lynch reporting from New York.

In an analysis piece, O'Sullivan says the move is a clear indication to the fossil-fuel sector of how the economy will change.

In our business section, however, Cantillon says Varadkar is "essentially focusing on an oil exploration industry here that barely exists".

The Taoiseach also yesterday promised any money raised from increasing carbon tax will be ringfenced to pay for coping with climate action and helping the poor to deal with higher fuel costs.

This essentially brought Varadkar, who had previously said he would look at refunding carbon tax through a ‘cheque-in-the-post’ system, into line with Fianna Fáil’s position that money raised through carbon tax should be reinvested in climate-friendly policies.

The two parties are also seemingly in line with how much the price of carbon should rise in the budget. The target of increasing carbon tax from €20 to €80 per tonne by 2030 is widely shared across the Dáil, although there are differences on how to shape the trajectory to €80.

The Department of Finance, in its tax strategy papers, was among those recommending a €10-per-tonne increase in this budget, with €5 increases per year afterward. It argued that if the aim is to change people’s behaviour, then front-loading the increases would be more effective.

But the indications from Government and Fianna Fáil are the Budget 2020 increase will be somewhere between €5 and €10. The Green Party, perhaps sensing the two major parties would lowball carbon tax increases, is advocating a €20-per-tonne increase in this budget.

Varadkar may hope his move to end fossil-fuel exploration will provide firm direction to the fossil-fuel industry, but he and Micheál Martin look set to only gently nudge wider consumer behaviour.

As we head towards the general election, Eamon Ryan will see political space - against a backdrop of huge climate marches and passionate warnings from Greta Thunberg - for his party as the one to keep future governments ambitious and honest on climate change.

Using the rainy day umbrella

Budget 2020 is a fortnight from today, and meetings between Fianna Fáil and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe resume this morning.

The emphasis of most of the meetings so far between Donohoe, Michael McGrath and Barry Cowen, according to sources, has been on the contingency measures that may be needed to support at-risk sectors of the economy in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The two Ministers likely to be at the forefront of providing support in such a scenario - Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and Minister for Business Heather Humphreys - were among the first to hold bilateral budget meetings with Mr Donohoe.

We report this morning the Minister for Finance is examining how to use the State's 'rainy day fund' - which is due to be worth €2 billion by the end of the year - in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

On the issue of Brexit, Varadkar is due to meet UK prime minister Boris Johnson on the fringes of the UN General Assembly today. Both sides have made downbeat noises, however.

The Taoiseach says Ireland will not accept a halfway house on the backstop. Donald Tusk, the EU council president, met Varadkar and Johnson in New York yesterday, and tweeted after his meeting with the UK PM: "No breakthrough. No breakdown. No time to lose."

Best reads

Denis Staunton reports from the UK Labour conference in Brighton that has seen division on Brexit policy.

Following comments made by Galway West TD Noel Grealish about immigrants, yours truly reports a significant number of TDs have had concerns for some time about rising anti-immigrant sentiment among voters.

Katy Hayward says Arlene Foster holds the key to Brexit and the future of Europe.


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and a number of Ministers are at the UN General Assembly. The Taoiseach will attend the opening session today, as well as a leaders’ lunch hosted by UN secretary general António Guterres.

The Taoiseach is expected to meet UK prime minister Boris Johnson on the fringes of the UN summit.

The weekly Cabinet meeting, which usually takes place on Tuesday, will instead take place this Thursday. It will be chaired by Tánaiste Simon Coveney in Mr Varadkar’s absence.

It is expected there will be an incorporeal Cabinet meeting at some point today to agree a Government position on a number of Private Members’ Bills before in the Oireachtas this week.

Budget meetings continue between the Government and Fianna Fáil.


Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe takes Leaders’ Questions in the Taoiseach’s absence, which will be followed by the Order of Business.

A number of motions - on the Data Protection Act 2018 (Central Bank) Regulations (Referral to Committee) and the Official Languages Act 2003 (Public Bodies) Regulations 2019 (Referral to Committee) - will be taken without debate.

Paul Kehoe, the Minister of State for Defence, is on oral questions.

The Finance (Tax Appeals and Prospectus Regulation) Bill 2019 is at second stage.

The Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Bill 2019 is at second stage.

The Rural Independent Group of TDs have a PMB on Agri-Food and Rural Development.


The Upper House returns after its own summer recess and will take up residency in the refurbished Seanad chamber after a period in the National Museum.

A motion on the reappointment of Five Members of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority will be referred to committee without debate, as will a motion on the Official Languages Act 2003

The Social Welfare Bill is at committee stage.

There will also be statements on the report of the Seanad Reform Implementation Group.


The Committee on Traveller Issues meets with the Traveller Mental Health Network, the Irish Traveller Movement, Kerry Travellers Group, Ms Minnie Connors and Pavee Point on issues relating to Travellers’ mental health

The Budgetary Oversight Committee continues its pre-budget hearings and today hears from Chambers Ireland and the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. It will also discuss the taxation treatment of the film industry with Screen Producers Ireland.

Irish MEPs will address the EU Affairs Committee via video link.

The Veterinary Council of Ireland is before the Agriculture, Food and the Marine Committee.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh is at the Education Committee on the reduced timetables.

The Committee on the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands has a hearing on the actions being taken by the Department of Defence to provide services in Irish.