Greens' pet project to survive cutbacks
THE Government will blow €400,000 on a Green Party pet project, at a time when they are preparing to cut €500m from spending on essential public services.
The cabinet quietly approved purchasing carbon credits for government travel last week. The move was part of deal reached with the Greens during coalition negotiations following last year's general election.
The project will be formally delivered by Environment Minister John Gormley next week.
The idea is that taxpayers' money will buy carbon credits every time a minister, their advisors or civil servants travel abroad on essential government business.
It is estimated that the backdated bill for the carbon credits will be around €400,000.
"This is the equivalent of the church selling indulgences, and they (the church) gave that up a long time ago," Fine Gael's foreign affairs spokesman, Billy Timmons, told the Irish Independent.
"We give €914m in overseas aid and either civil servants, politicians and their advisors need to travel by air, or they don't."
The Labour Party has also criticised the practice, while a number of Fianna Fail backbenchers have also privately expressed incredulity at the plan.
The agreement in government for carbon credits is that €3.50 will cover a return flight to the UK and €6 for a round trip to Brussels. Other European destinations will cost €11, east America €34, Central America €36, Australia €114, Asia, €64, the Middle East €40 and central Africa €34.
In the Programme for Government, it was suggested that carbon credits could be bought by funding the planting trees to create "urban forests" in Ireland. The Department of the Environment later issued a statement saying: "Offsetting carbon emissions from air travel isn't a cure for climate change but a way to compensate for greenhouse gases from necessary air travel."
Yesterday sources close to Minister John Gormley said: "It is used by a number of countries in Europe as best practice."