Climate action can be achieved without reducing living standards, Varadkar says

Tánaiste says there is a lot of ‘scaremongering’ when it comes to climate action

Action on climate change can be achieved without reducing living standards, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

On Wednesday, the Climate Change Advisory Council, an independent body which advises the Government on climate matters, said Ireland is not prepared for today’s climate nor that of the future.

It said while a solid foundation has been put in place in terms of tackling climate change, more needs to be done urgently to prepare for the changes that a warming climate will bring, following record temperatures being recorded across Europe this week.

Mr Varadkar said he doesn’t think anybody in the world “unless they’re either insane or stupid at this stage could possibly deny the fact that climate change is happening”, adding that there is a lot of “scaremongering” when it comes to climate action.


“A certain amount of climate change is now inevitable.. So we have to adapt to it and that’s important. But we also need to make sure that we don’t continue to make it worse,” he told The Last Word on TodayFM.

“Can that be achieved without reducing living standards? I believe it can. I fully appreciate that other people don’t share that view, but I’m somebody who is an eco-capitalist; I’m somebody who believes you can achieve a lot of climate action through new technologies.”

Some of the ways this could be achieved would be for Ireland to become a net exporter of electricity, or turn surplus electricity into hydrogen and produce green fertiliser, he added.

Mr Varadkar described reports that families would be asked to get rid of their second cars to meet emission targets as “harebrained”.

“There’s a lot of scaremongering at the moment around climate action. These targets are very ambitious and we do have to do everything we can to achieve them. But we’re not going to penalise and punish people if they can’t be achieved,” he said.

“Are we going to tell Pfizer to close down their pharmaceutical plants? Are we going to tell Meta or Google to leave our country? Of course we’re not.”

Mr Varadkar said there are already a lot of things which dissuade car ownership, including availability of parking and the cost of fuel.

“I’d rather say what we can do to encourage people to go the other way and that means improving pedestrian facilities, improving cycling, improving public infrastructure.”

On the cost of living crisis, Mr Varadkar said the Government is in a position to introduce one-off measures in the budget.

Some of the measures in the mix are an increase in the minimum wage and a reduction in income tax, he said.

“What you would see potentially on the spending side is a lot of help for people with the cost of childcare. If you can reduce the cost of childcare for working families, that saves a them a couple of hundred euro a month,” he added.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times