Friday 23 August 2019

Martin criticises 'lack of real urgency' from Government on environment as he says he is reducing carbon footprint by walking a lot

Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)
Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin says he is reducing his carbon footprint by walking a lot.

Mr Martin admitted there are other things he could be doing but claimed his carbon footprint is “not as high as it might be”.

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar sparked anger among the farming community in January when he said he was eating less meat in order to reduce his own carbon footprint.

Asked about his own carbon emissions this week, Mr Martin said: “Well I walk a lot. Actually we are looking at various things. I mean in terms of my carbon footprint I think we have other things to do, but it’s not as high as it might be.”

Mr Martin criticised the government’s climate action plan and in particular the failure to issue a nationwide ban on smoky coal. A ban was introduced in Dublin in 1990 and adopted by many towns and cities across the country but campaigners claim that around a fifth of the population is still not covered by the ban. Plans to issue a nationwide smoky coal ban have been delayed amid legal threats from the coal industry.

“On climate change we’ve had a lot of rhetoric, we’ve had the publication of ambitious plans, but when it comes to actually operational implementation, we do have to wonder that a country that, 30 years after the introduction of the smoky coal ban, cannot finish the job and do a very basic thing in terms of public policy, provide for clean air through a policy that has proven to work in this city and elsewhere.

“But for some reason the government baulked because a number of letters came in the door from vested interests. That is to me, gives the lie to the rhetoric that we’ve got from government in relation to climate change and that particular agenda.”

He added: “I do get frustrated at the lack of real urgency around it. The smoky coal ban to me, surely to hell they could go off and do it.”

Mr Martin played down suggestions he could establish a Department for Climate Change, insisting it must be “interdepartmental”.

“I’ve met with various groups, that we’ve had a disjointed approach so there are units in certain government departments that shouldn’t be there. You do need to reconfigure government to bring various dimensions together under the one roof.

“From our perspective, there will be a broader paper on the reconfiguration of government. That will be more manifesto material. But I am just making the point on climate change, it is a bit all over the place in different government departments from the national parks, for example, you have some elements under the housing department at the moment.”

Mr Martin said he welcomed plans for Irish wildflowers and bee boxes to be installed in Leinster House having recently called for greater biodiversity measures to be rolled out across the Oireachtas complex.

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