'Two fingers to voters' after Government blocks fossil fuel exploration ban
The Government has been accused of sabotaging attempts to tackle climate change just days after a so-called 'green wave' swept across the country's polling stations.
Legislation which would ban the exploration for fossil fuels in Ireland was expected to progress through the Oireachtas in the coming weeks. But on Tuesday, the first day back after the local elections, Opposition TDs who sponsored the Climate Emergency Measures Bill were told it would be stalled.
Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton now says the bill would have a cost implication for the Exchequer and therefore requires a "money message" to proceed. It appears this will not be forthcoming from the Government.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the Taoiseach is "talking the talk on climate change with his European counterparts while at the same time sabotaging efforts to do what is the central demand of the climate movement, namely, to keep fossil fuels in the ground".
He said ministers were using "procedural trickery" which amounted to "gross climate hypocrisy".
"Keeping fossil fuels in the ground is the central demand of Greta Thunberg, the school students who protested and will protest again, Extinction Rebellion, Friends of the Earth, the Green Party and Sinn Féin," Mr Boyd Barrett said.
In response Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has argued he wants to take "serious climate action that works but also sensible climate action". "It should be climate action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions but not climate action that makes us poorer, costs jobs or threatens our security," said Mr Varadkar.
He noted that 30pc of Irish electricity is now produced using renewables. The target is for this to rise to 70pc by the end of the next decade.
"However, that still means that we will need to use gas. Gas powers many of our homes and businesses," said the Taoiseach.
"We will still need gas to power some of our electricity plants for the foreseeable future, well into the third decade of the century, possibly even the fourth.
"It is a transition fuel which is much cleaner than other fuels and which we will need to use for foreseeable future in the next couple of decades."
Mr Varadkar said that if Ireland doesn't use its own natural gas, the alternative is to import it from Russia, North America, or from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Oisín Coghlan from Friends of the Earth accused Mr Varadkar of ignoring voters who supported environmental politics in the local and European elections. "They are saying 'we hear you' on Sunday and giving you two fingers on Monday," he said.