Ryan concedes real difficulties ahead to cut carbon levels


MINISTER FOR Energy Eamon Ryan has said the country is facing real difficulties in reducing its carbon emissions.

His comments came following a forecast of a 5 per cent rise in levels for 2007.

While official figures for 2007 will not become available until the end of the year, analysis by Prof Richard Tol of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) estimates that emissions will increase by 4.6 per cent in 2007 compared with 2006.

The Programme for Government had committed to reduce greenhouse emissions by 3 per cent each year during the lifetime of the coalition. Mr Ryan said he did not dispute Mr Tol's analysis and said the country is facing real difficulties and real challenges in terms of bringing emission levels down.

He acknowledged that the Government had made a commitment to reduce emissions, but said the changes would take time to work.

"We can't change it overnight, we are only starting on that path," he told RTÉ Radio 1 yesterday.

Mr Ryan said a reduction in emissions would bring energy independence to Ireland as well as jobs and new opportunities. He said measures already introduced, including changes in home building standards and in taxation of cars, would bring changes to the country's emission levels.

Fine Gael Energy spokesman Simon Coveney TD said the projected figures were extremely worrying.

"Instead of a specific Government response, which is what we need, we get the usual lecture on the need to reduce emissions and the need to create green collar jobs," he said.

"This kind of generalised speak inspires no confidence after a year in office. What we need from Minister Eamon Ryan are specifics as to how the Government plans to incentivise a change in consumer habits and a reduction in emissions." He added that the Minister was talking about what he wants to achieve in the absence of a plan to get there.

Senator Michael McCarthy, Labour Party spokesman on Energy, said the Green Party had placed too much emphasis on merely highlighting the issue of climate change, when what was needed were measures that would actually improve the environment.

"The spin-off of such measures such as putting more buses on the roads, extending rail links, insulating public buildings and planting more trees would be to actually help reduce our carbon emissions," he said.

He accused the Greens of buying carbon credits so that "a box in the Programme for Government can be ticked off". "Unfortunately, many other proposals put forward by the Greens have been little more than token gestures, often placing an unfair burden on low income families," he added.