State will face tough trade-offs, bitter divisions on climate policy

Inside Politics: All sides of the Coalition can indulge in a bit of cakeism over the National Development Plan

The Coalition will be tested as individual sectoral emissions limits are set

The Coalition will be tested as individual sectoral emissions limits are set

 

Good morning.

An away day, a big plan and €165 billion to throw around. As far as Mondays go, what’s not to like?

Cabinet made its way to Cork yesterday for a grand political set piece – the launch of the new National Development Plan (NDP). The only drawback was for the social media gurus, who found themselves without Facebook and Instagram to share their slick promo videos. There’s always Twitter, if your core audience is cranky hacks of all stripes.

Hash-tag devo, as they say. (Ed’s note: that’s devastated for the uninformed).

As political editor Pat Leahy writes in his analysis today, these events tick a lot of boxes for Ministers.

However, our lead article shows they also tend to bring into sharp focus some of the more trenchant problems faced by those same Ministers. Jennifer Bray’s front page story shows how there’s real-world challenges to be dealt with – not least, the risk that investing in these projects could pour fuel on the inflationary fire and damage the capacity to hit housing goals.

Then there’s the rumbling discontent over climate issues. The plan’s inbuilt automatic climate stabilisers mean all sides of the Coalition can (at least for the day) indulge in a bit of cakeism. The FF/FG lads can have their roads in the plan, and the Greens can eat it too in the comfort of knowing that carbon-heavy projects will face headwinds in the future when it comes to securing approval.

That being said, cracks may be smoothed over in an immediate sense, but the dissonance between the parties’ starting points illuminate wider fissures. This issue will test the Coalition, not just over the budget but on the climate budget that will follow, and more intensely again as individual sectoral emissions limits are set.

Hard choices, tough trade-offs and bitter divisions on climate policy will be ever-present features of democracies in the years to come – there is no reason to expect Ireland will be any different. It may be soothing to tell yourself a road either will or won’t be built at some point in the next decade, depending on your point of view, but it doesn’t alter the fundamental nature of the challenge.

Elsewhere, there’s the minor matter of making delicate adjustments to the landmark industrial policy intervention of our times - the 12.5 per cent corporation tax rate.

And trundling along in the background this week we have data centres, Sláintecare, the budget, the Pandora Papers and sabre-rattling from Brexit Britain. And that busy agenda means I’ve made it to the first political digest in living memory without a mention of Covi . . . . Oh, well. Almost.

Front page

Our lead story is here.

The latest on corporation tax also makes the front page.

And the page one line-up is completed by Cormac McQuinn’s tale of the DUP leader’s attempts to secure a mandatory hotel quarantine refund for a constituent.

Best reads

Kevin O’Sullivan stares down the climate challenges inherent in the Government’s plan.

Pat Leahy’s analysis is here.

Meanwhile, the launch leaves Miriam Lord cold.

Fintan O’Toole draws unfavourable comparisons between Leo Varadkar and Justin Trudeau.

Playbook

The best of the committee fare is to be found at the joint committee on environment and climate action, where we will hear about energy security, natural gas and data centres. That’s at 3pm.

Other notable committee appearances include the teaching unions at the education committee (11am), while the children’s committee at 3pm hears about issues facing the childcare sector.

The Samaritans are in the mental health subcommittee at 11am to talk about the impact of Covid, and the reserve Defence Forces representative groups are at the defence committee at 3pm. There’s pre-legislative scrutiny with departmental officials at the housing committee, also at 3pm.

Dáil action starts at 2pm with Leaders’ Questions by Sinn Féin, Labour, the Regional Group and the Independent Group. Government business at 3pm is on the continuance of emergency provisions of healthcare legislation, and then it’s a PMB on childcare services from Sinn Féin at 5.30pm. Catherine Martin has oral questions at 7.30pm, before topical issues at 9pm.

In the Seanad, there will be commencement matters at 2.30pm, before the Child and Family Agency Amendment Bill runs through committee and amendment stages at 5pm. Statements on Belarus come at 6.15pm, and the Air Navigation and Transport Bill is at committee stage at 8pm.

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