Greens warns on climate change slippage ahead of election 2016

Launch of manifesto includes €30bn strategy for renewable energy and ‘citizen trust fund’

Green agenda: At the Green Party manifesto launch in Dublin were (from left): party chairman Roderick O Gorman, leader Eamon Ryan and deputy leader Catherine Martin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Green agenda: At the Green Party manifesto launch in Dublin were (from left): party chairman Roderick O Gorman, leader Eamon Ryan and deputy leader Catherine Martin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Harry McGee

Political Correspondent

The Green Party has claimed that climate change will not form part of the national debate without its presence on the political stage.

The party on Friday launched its policy manifesto which calls for legislation binding future governments to meet the Paris agreement on climate change targets.

The 60-page document also sets out a €30 billion investment plan in renewable energy, a spatial plan and a programme for managing land and land use.

One innovation is a “citizen trust fund” which would involve an investment of €5,000 for every child born in the State which would come to maturity when they were 20.

The party said the fund would then be worth €15,000 to €20,000, and would ease the passage for young adults moving out of home and into an independent life.

Outlining the plan in Dublin, party leader Eamon Ryan said that four plans were needed: a climate strategy; a spatial programme; an economic plan and a land-use initiative.

Referring to the leaders’ debate on TV3 the previous evening, he said: “I did not hear a word of integrated thinking [on climate change and the environment] during the election debate last night.”

Among the Green policy proposals are directly-elected mayors for Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. They would have direct responsibility for transport and planning.

The manifesto also outlines measures to allow a more sustainable approach to food, agriculture, fishing, construction and energy generation.

“We have the potential to eliminate our annual €6 billion fossil-fuel import bill, if we make the switch to a new efficient and clean energy system,” it states.

It calls for a new network of regional banks, which would be publicly owned and would lend to local enterprises.

In housing, the party proposes to amalgamate the Housing Agency and Housing Finance Agency. The new entity would provide 7,500 units of social housing each year.

Its transport policies prioritise public conveyance, walking, and cycling. It pledges to accelerate the development of a greenways network countrywide for commuting and leisure.

The manifesto calls for decarbonisation of energy by 2050 with solar, wind and ocean power providing the alternatives.

It also provides for a referendum to enshrine the right to, and public ownership of, water infrastructure in the Constitution.

Party chairman Roderick O’Gorman said the Government promised a “democratic revolution” five years ago, but instead had offered “bureaucratic stagnation”.

Mr O’Gorman condemned the Coalition for ignoring all but two of the recommendations of the constitutional convention. He said it was no wonder that Enda Kenny was eager to leave the eighth amendment on abortion to a citizens’ assembly. “He sends reform to die by hiding it away.”

Mr O’Gorman outlined the party’s plans for directly elected mayors and for the reform of Seanad Éireann, including universal suffrage. He said the Greens wanted 56 seats selected from regional panels and four from the diaspora.

Deputy leader Catherine Martin said the Greens would reform education. She said that there was a need to introduce a proper schools’ dinner policy.

“It is unacceptable that one-in-five children are going to school, or bed, hungry,” she said.

Ms Martin, who is standing in Dublin Rathdown, said the party supports introducing mindfulness and resilience into the curriculum from primary school all the way up.

The party also would campaign to end children being refused admission to schools on grounds of religion.