Source: An Taisce
Today’s statement by new Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton that for Ireland to step up to the challenge of climate change “will require a revolution in how we live” is welcomed by An Taisce.
His proposal to lead on the development of an ‘all of government plan’ which will set out the actions which must be taken in every government department and body is also a belated step in the right direction, at least in terms of rhetoric.
Mr Bruton’s stated commitment to steadily ratcheting up carbon taxes between now and 2030 is welcome, but we note that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also promised such an increase in this year’s Budget, then welched on this commitment in order to assuage a handful of backbench TDs. Political promises on climate action can no longer be allowed to crumble at the first sign of resistance from vested interests.
The most urgent action for our government is to now set out a clear pathway to transition every aspect of the Irish economy and society to a near-zero carbon in line with our commitments under the 2015 Paris Accord on climate change.
This will mean, in the minister’s own words, a revolution in how we heat our homes and businesses, fuel our national grid and public and private transport systems, and what foods we produce.
Mr Bruton rightly says: ‘We must discourage new private or public investments being made now which lock us in to high carbon patterns of living’. How then can this be squared with the current massive expansion of Dublin Airport, or the proposed gas terminal on the Shannon Estuary, both of which lock-in high carbon patterns of living for decades?
The minister says he wants to “create a profound shift in behaviour patterns”. Introducing stiff taxes on flying, especially on frequent flyers, and investing that revenue in supporting the low-carbon transition would be a useful first step towards such a shift. Accelerating the shut-down of the three loss-making peat-fired power stations as well as decommissioning the ESB’s coal-fired Moneypoint plant are other vital steps towards a zero-carbon transition.
The minister has a ready-made action template to work with, in the form of the 13 recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on climate action. Some 80% of citizens were prepared to pay higher taxes on carbon-intensive activities, with 89% backing taxes on carbon-intensive forms of agriculture, such as beef and dairy production, with the money being used to support more sustainable alternatives, including organic farming.
The Assembly also voted overwhelmingly in favour of all future infrastructure spending being weighted at least 2:1 in favour of supporting high quality public transport, including a rapid transition to electric vehicles.
An Taisce notes that recent proposed changes announced in Budget 2019 in relation to benefit-in-kind (BIK) on company-provided electric vehicles are going to heavily penalise those forward-thinking companies who availed of the BIK scheme to switch to cleaner transport, and we would call on Mr Bruton to reverse this decision in the Finance Bill.
Climate change is without a doubt the gravest threat facing us today. Therefore, Richard Bruton has we believe the most consequential brief of any Cabinet minister. An Taisce wishes him every success and is prepared to work with his department in whatever way to aid the ‘revolution’ towards a cleaner, safer future for all.
For further information, contact:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
About An Taisce
An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland’s natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.