Growing the green economy will create & sustain thousands of jobs

07 February 2016

Climate change is the biggest single challenge facing humanity.

The Labour Party, in Government, ensured that the coalition did more than any of its predecessors to face up to our responsibility to future generations.

When I published my Energy White Paper last December, we became the first Irish Government to commit to a zero-carbon energy future for our country.

We were also the first Irish Government to pass legislation that commits us – in law – to meeting EU targets for reducing carbon emissions and adopting renewable energy.

The Energy White Paper set out a framework of 90 actions designed to wean our country off fossil fuels over the coming years, while ensuring that the people of Ireland continue to have a secure supply of affordable energy.

We intend to replace high carbon fuels like coal and peat with cleaner alternatives like natural gas over the medium-term.

And, over time, we will decarbonise our economy and society entirely, replacing fossil fuels with renewables and reducing energy demand through greatly enhanced energy efficiency in our homes, businesses and public spaces.

As a result, we will reduce our energy-related carbon emissions by between 80% and 95%, compared to 1990 levels, by 2050 – before moving to generate 100% of our energy needs from clean sources by the end of the century.

This ambitious energy transformation will require a real commitment from us all:

It will cost money in the short and medium term – but by spending now, we will all save money later.

It will present technological and political challenges.

And it will demand that all of us radically change the way we travel and power our homes, businesses and public places.

But with these challenges come immense opportunities:

The opportunity to create a better, cleaner environment.

The opportunity to democratise our energy system.

And – the subject of the policy we are publishing today – the opportunity to develop our ‘green economy,’ which will create and sustain thousands of jobs in the domestic  economy and the export sector.

We will do this by investing more in renewable energy – and in a more diverse range of renewables – and by increasing and accelerating our commitment to energy efficiency in our homes, businesses and public buildings.

Growing the Green Economy outlines how we will:

  • Establish a Green Infrastructure Fund worth €1 billion. Half of this – €500,000 will  come from the disposal of the planned sale of 25% of the State’s shares in AIB. This will be matched by €500,000 of private funding.

 

  • The fund will support enhanced energy efficiency projects – including grant-aided support to retrofit of 215,000 homes to make them warmer, cheaper to heat, and far more energy efficient.

 

  • A further 10,000 of our oldest, least modern, homes will be funded to undertake energy efficiency improvements.

These energy efficiency programmes will create 13,000 new jobs, save €39 million in household energy bills, and reduce carbon emissions by 137 kilotonnes.

Many more jobs – quality jobs – will be created in Irelands’ third level institutions, research centres, and the high-tech industries that are innovating today to create the renewable and energy-saving technologies of tomorrow.

Our Green Infrastructure Fund will also support clean public transport. We will establish a dedicated Green Bus Fund to replace the public bus fleet with cleaner, more cost-effective vehicles.

We will also publish a new Rail Transport Strategy to improve the reliability and energy efficiency of our rail network and rolling stock.

We will improve the incentives for electric and hybrid cars.

We will further promote cycling – including by funding a city cycle-way system, and by introducing a ‘bike to school’ scheme based on the highly successful ‘bike to work’ scheme.

And we will invest in our natural environment and local amenities, providing additional support for parks, canals, green spaces, waterways and tree-planting.

Allow me to conclude by saying that, while governments and political parties are catalysts for change, neither they nor the international institutions have all the answers

That’s why Labour is placing citizens and communities at the heart of energy policy, promoting and enabling deep public engagement on the challenges – and the opportunities – that arise from our climate commitments.

This will include robust consultation on the location and development of the energy infrastructure necessary to deliver our energy transition.

To this end, the Energy White paper set out a range of measures to enhance community and citizen involvement in renewable energy generation – a radically new approach to consultation and debate, which includes a commitment to establish a National Energy Forum under an independent chair.

In summary, Labour will act to combat climate change – and we will act to ensure that our people, businesses and communities are positioned to reap the employment and economic benefits that arise from this, the greatest project facing humanity in the 21st century.

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