Minister stops short of going vegetarian to fight climate change

Bruton warns businesses they face issues if changes not made to address global warming

Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton says he has not gone as far as embracing vegetarianism or veganism to help save the planet but has urged people to have a balanced diet.

Mr Bruton was responding to a question at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly at the Druid's Glen resort in Co Wicklow, at which he outlined the Government's efforts to tackle climate change to parliamentarians.

"Have you become a vegan or at least a vegetarian?" asked Labour TD Joan Burton, pointing to the changing attitudes young people have towards food and eating meat or fish as part of climate action.

“People are changing dramatically their choices and I think that’s influencing every household. We have always taken he view that you need a balanced diet,” said Mr Bruton, skirting her question.

In answer to an earlier question from Labour MP Helen Jones about under-estimating the difficulties of “getting public buy-in” to climate action, Mr Bruton said that this was achieved by leading by example.

“If we are not seen to make the changes in our own areas of influence, if we are not out there influencing our supply chain, we won’t do it,” he said.

He later confirmed to reporters that he had not become a vegetarian or vegan.

“Not today, not today, but a balanced diet is something we all should bear in mind and cook local when you can,” said the Minister, who encouraged people to source produce locally and use food that is in season.

Beef stir fry

Mr Bruton directed reporters to his cooking posts on social media, a day after posting on Instagram a photograph of a beef stir fry he had made.

In a question-and-answer session with the Irish and British parliamentarians, Mr Bruton acknowledged that vegetarianism would have a negative impact on Irish agriculture with less beef being sold and that farmers would have to respond to those changes.

In his address at the assembly on the Government’s climate actions, Mr Bruton warned businesses they would not survive if they did not make changes to address climate action as the price of carbon rises more than tenfold by 2050.

“There will be the companies who go to the wall and their business will be gobbled up by others who move much more swiftly,” he said.

The minister resisted calls to stop all gas and oil exploration off Irish coasts because even by 2030 some 30 per cent of the country’s electricity supply would still be sourced from fossil fuels.

“It is better to have a domestic source than seeking to rely on other sources, be it Russian oligarchs or Arabic sheikhs,” he said.

Mr Bruton said that the “$64,000 question” was where replacement funding would be found if the Government weaned people off fossil fuel and lost the money generated on excise on fuels.