Taoiseach accused of ‘spin’ on climate action

Opposition suggest free public transport and car scrappage scheme to cut emissions

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: ‘We will contribute globally to a global reduction. It’s a global pledge.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has been accused of "spin" in his comments on Irish commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.

World leaders are expected to agree ambitious deals to protect forests and cut methane emissions on Tuesday.

Mr Martin said Ireland would sign a pledge to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent, but he stressed that the figure was a global target rather than a national one. He told RTÉ's Morning Ireland: "We will contribute globally to a global reduction. It's a global pledge, it's not country-specific. We will develop our climate action plan which will give our specifics in respect of each sector," he said.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith has claimed that neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael "have any intention of challenging the big agri-food industry in this country… who are the main producers of methane and agriculture emissions."


On the pledge to sign up to the 30 per cent cut she said: “We sign declarations all the time in this country. That doesn’t mean we live up to them. And really this is a cop out from Micheál Martin at the Cop conference.”

She said her party is calling for free public transport to reduce car usage and a ban on the proliferation on high energy-usage data centres.

She accused Mr Martin of “spin” and claimed what he is really saying is “‘lord make me good but not quite yet’. Mañana, mañana [tomorrow, tomorrow] is what this Government’s commitments is all about but we need immediate action”.

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns said some of Mr Martin’s remarks were welcome and it was “nice to hear a shift” in language from Government.

She said one conversation that “absolutely needs to end” is the blame being placed on farmers for emissions, adding that they made business plans based on trajectories set out by the Department of Agriculture and Bord Bia.

Ms Cairns said: "We have to address issue methane in the agriculture sector." She claimed: "I think in all the other sectors where we need to see a reduction in emissions. We've seen much more innovation and much more dedication and focus from departments and business."

Ms Cairns added: “You can understand why farmers feel so fearful now because we’re talking about all of these changes but there’s nothing in place to protect them financially.”

Labour TD Duncan Smith welcomed Mr Martin's remarks on Tuesday morning as "positive" but added: "I hope he wasn't just influenced by the euphoric atmosphere of Cop26."

Mr Smith called for a “real scrappage scheme” for petrol and diesel cars if Ireland is to meet the target of getting 900,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030.

He said: “We need to be selling 100,000 electric vehicles a year from this year onwards. We’re nowhere near that.

“Traditional petrol and diesel vehicles are outstripping electric vehicles seven to one in terms of the marketplace.

“So the Government need to do more.”

He said a €5,000 rebate grant for electric vehicles announced in the Budget “just isn’t enough”.

Mr Smith also said there should be a carbon labelling system for food and that Labour proposed a Bill to bring one in back in March as a “very practical, good measure that people would welcome and it would help tackle the potential for corporate greenwashing”.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times