Rural Independent TDs attack Government’s Climate Action Bill

Healy-Rae blames pollution in Asia for harming environment, not person ‘with a turf fire’

Kerry’s Michael Healy-Rae said he’s not a climate change denier and he’s ‘not trying to say that we shouldn’t improve on the way we live’. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/The Irish Times

Kerry’s Michael Healy-Rae said he’s not a climate change denier and he’s ‘not trying to say that we shouldn’t improve on the way we live’. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/The Irish Times

 

Rural Independent TDs highlighted pollution in Asia and the attacked the Government’s Climate Action Bill which they claim will damage farming and tourism here. 

Michael Healy-Rae blamed pollution in Asia for harming the environment, not a person in Ireland “with a turf fire” while Tipperary Independent Mattie McGrath claimed that people in rural Ireland will be “punished” for pollution in China.

The Independent TDs also warned that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will suffer electorally in rural Ireland if the Bill is passed unchanged. 

They made the remarks ahead of tomorrow’s Dáil debate on the Climate Action Bill.

The Bill commits Ireland to a 51 per cent reduction in emissions by the end of the decade and to be net-zero carbon by 2050.

Mr McGrath claimed the measures in the Bill are “outrageous” and will lead to the end of small family farms in favour of big factory farms. 

He said the Rural Independents will be tabling amendments to the Bill and “fighting this tooth and nail”.

He said that if Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael support the Bill as it is “they’re signing their own death warrants”.

‘Mature discussion’

Cork South-West TD Michael Collins said politicians from those parties and the Greens will be “ran from the doorstep in rural Ireland”.

He said that under the Bill it looks like 50 per cent of the cattle herd will have to be culled and said this is “unacceptable”.

Government leaders have talked about “stabilising” cattle numbers.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said at the launch of the Bill that there needs to be a “mature discussion” with farmers about this. He said “It is possible to reduce emissions without reducing the size of the herd”– though it would be very difficult.

Mr Collins said the Government should adopt an amendment from his group that would set the VAT rate on insulation at zero per cent to help people make their homes energy efficient more cheaply and suggested it’s these kinds of approaches that should be taken.

Laois-Offaly TD Carol Nolan claimed the Bill shows a “lack of respect” for rural Ireland and that “devastation” had been caused by ‘just transition’ plans to phase out peat harvesting in the Midlands as there’s “no alternative jobs in place”.

Kerry’s Michael Healy-Rae said he’s not a climate change denier and he’s “not trying to say that we shouldn’t improve on the way we live”.

But he said that generations have worked to build up the tourism industry.He claimed the Government wants to tax air travel and said: “What will we do, tax ourselves out of existence in the tourism market?”

Detrimental effect

Mr Healy-Rae argued that Ireland is “less than one tenth of one per cent of the problem” when it comes to climate change and added: “It’s Asia and what they’re doing out there. That’s what’s harming our environment. For God’s sake it’s not a person here with a turf fire or burning a bit of timber that’s causing this problem”.

He said “we will do what we can do in a measured way” but it would be “crazy” to implement the Climate Action Bill as “everyone is going to be detrimentally affected”.

Danny Healy-Rae does not believe that human activity is causing climate change. He reiterated his claim that the climate has changed over the centuries and this “will continue to happen and whatever we do on this earth will not affect the weather”. He said coal power stations are being opened in China adding: “we’re all under the same sky and what we’re being asked now tomorrow is to paralyse the people of Ireland”.

Mr Healy-Rae said Asian cities have “massive” populations with intense industry and “Really they can’t see, not to mind seeing their shoes, they can’t see their bellybuttons.”

Mr McGrath was asked at the press conference why China is being blamed. He replied: “Sure we see what China are doing. We’re not blind or deaf or stupid . . . We see what’s happening out there. We see the coal power stations being developed . . . We see the pollution that’s there and we’re being punished here.”

He denied he was arguing that Ireland should do less because others aren’t doing more saying he was seeking “fair play for us”.