Taoiseach Micheál Martin (FF) and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar (FG) have been accused of “swallowing” the Green Party agenda “hook, line and sinker”.
This is the view of independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice who has warned that “the people of Ireland need to wake up to the consequences” of the revised Climate Action Bill approved by Cabinet yesterday.
The landmark draft law sets out a new pathway for the country to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 via an interim target of a 51pc reduction in emissions by the end of 2030 – this is to be achieved by strict carbon budgets that would be applied to each sector, including agriculture.
“Let no one be codding themselves... we are in real danger of getting rid of jobs and turning the lights out,” the Roscommon-Galway deputy said.
“At the moment, we are importing biomass from as far away as South Africa; fuel is being brought in by the truckload because the electricity suppliers here cannot guarantee power.
"We are moving away from natural gas – with no exploration licenses or further storage projects being considered – despite talk in Europe of labelling natural gas as ‘a sustainable energy source’.”
"And we are happy to import peat from far flung countries, despite the fact that we can produce it here,” he said.
On the proposed sectoral approach to agriculture as set out in the new Climate Action Bill, Fitzmaurice cautioned that carbon budgets would be placed on the farming community “without having the correct picture”, while increased carbon taxes will “cripple” the sector even further in the coming years, he says.
“I challenge any Government minister or official to show me where the sequestration values of grass growth cycles and hedgerows are accounted for under our emissions at the moment.
“Meanwhile, the price of agricultural diesel is heading for 70c/L – up from 35-40c/L last year, with another carbon tax increase on the way in May.
“And the prices of raw materials for construction, such as steel and timber, are rising by up to 50pc too. How can you have a sustainable economy and create jobs in these circumstances?” he asked.
In closing, the farmer, turf cutter and agricultural contractor claimed that if the Irish people accept the new Climate Action Bill, then “large swathes of the country will be turned into theme parks”.
“I would urge all in opposition to row against this fantasy bill which the Green Party has drawn up in a delusional world and which Martin and Varadkar – for the sake of power and not facing the electorate – are swallowing hook, line and sinker.”
The amended Climate Action Bill is progressing through the Houses of the Oireachtas as “priority legislation”. An eight-week public consultation process on Climate Action Plan 2021 has also been launched.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the bill affirms the Government’s ambition to be “a global leader” in this field.
"We must continue to act, across Government, as there is no time to waste when it comes to securing our future,” he said.
While Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he is confident that the decarbonisation of the economy will present “significant opportunities” for Irish business, trade and employment.
"Whether that be in the huge expansion of entire industries, such as retrofitting or offshore wind, by becoming an electricity exporter, or new jobs in cleantech, the early movers with the most ambition will see the greatest opportunities.”