Hard policy decisions needed to tackle climate change

10 December 2018

Labour Party Leader, Brendan Howlin TD, has said there needs to be hard policy decisions when it comes to climate change, not just empty promises from the Fine Gael government.

This comes as the 2019 Climate Change Performance Index has found that Ireland is the lowest ranked member of the European Union.

Deputy Howlin said:

“The findings of the latest Climate Change Performance Index are shameful for Ireland. Not only are we the lowest ranked member of the European Union, but Ireland is the only European country in the fifth and bottom category of countries, which are the least likely to live up to their responsibilities on climate change. While no country is ranked as doing enough, nine EU countries including the UK are in the second highest category, along with the EU average.

“The report  notes that ‘existing climate mitigation efforts will not enable Ireland to  achieve  either  its  EU  2020  or  2030  targets  domestically’, although it complements the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill ‘as the first of its kind in the world’. Notably, the Bill came from the Opposition not Government.

“It is clear that Ireland can and must do much more to take seriously the threat of climate change, especially in terms of curbing greenhouse gas emissions. It is also crystal clear that while everyone will have to change their lifestyles, it is the State that needs to provide leadership and direction. There is huge potential to improve the energy efficiency of public buildings and social housing, and to use public land for sustainable energy. Likewise, the State needs to take a lead on reducing the unnecessary consumption of energy. State regulation, including carbon taxes, is needed to change incentives for businesses. There must be protections for people on low incomes, but a carbon tax would provide the funds for better public transport, home insulation grants and Fuel Allowance payments.

“I welcome Minister Bruton’s admission that the Government is ‘95 per cent off target’ and his determination to seek dramatic change. But while he is only weeks in this new role, there is no excuse for other ministers. Climate Change statements this month from a succession of Government ministers were deeply disappointing, as they skirted over the fundamental problems and merely highlighted minor initiatives. Leo Varadkar’s inability to discuss carbon taxes in the Dáil highlighted his focus on short-term politics rather than on the urgent public need for leadership on climate action.

“Ireland faces fines of several hundred million euro annually if we fail to reduce carbon emissions. Investment now will pay dividends in terms of avoiding those fines from the EU. More importantly, action taken now is the only chance we have of ensuring that our children and grandchildren do not inherit a world that is severely impoverished and irretrievably damaged.

“Labour has pledged to set out a roadmap to Ireland living within our means in terms of emissions and energy use. One part of this would be the introduction of carbon budgeting in every Government department and agency, as part of the national budget process, so that each minister and officials will now exactly how much they have to take action to stay within their allocation. Only this kind of serious effort will drive the necessary change.”

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