Saturday 21 September 2019

Political division and public disorder possible if climate action changes aren't fairly apportioned - Bruton

Target: Environment Minister Richard Bruton has committed to a sharp increase in electric vehicles. Picture: Collins
Target: Environment Minister Richard Bruton has committed to a sharp increase in electric vehicles. Picture: Collins

Caroline O’Doherty

Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton has warned of the possibility of political division and public disorder if the changes needed for climate action are not fairly apportioned.

He said the most vulnerable had to be protected in issues such as declining industries and carbon taxes otherwise the consensus achieved by the Climate Assembly and all-party Climate Action Committee would be lost.

He referenced the problems in France where the yellow vest movement emerged in response to carbon taxes and the other impacts of energy transition.

“The danger here is if we don’t manage the exposure of those who are most exposed to change or least equipped to make the change. Suddenly you have one group in society forging ahead and caught in the backwash are other people  left struggling behind.

“We have to manage this just transition, to manage things like the cost of damage we do and carbon pricing and not see what we’ve seen in France and other places.”

Mr Bruton said while the details of the carbon tax had not been finalised here, the needs of people in fuel poverty would be designed into it.

Kevin O’Connor, a professor at University College Dublin specialising in sustainability, warned against climate action causing an urban-rural split.

“The challenges are much more than technological, they are sociological as well,” he said. “If we decide that the agricultural  sector is the bad boy in the room you will basically implode rural Ireland.”

Mr Bruton also expressed concern at the pushback already evident against projects needed to move society towards carbon neutrality.

“We’re seeing huge resistance to the installation of renewable energy, we’re seeing huge resistance to higher density buildings in our communities, to public transport, but these are the critical infrastructures if we want to make the change,” he said.

“We can’t say we’re advocates for climate action and then say but we’re going to resist these infrastructures that will make it happen.”

The Minister was jointly launching with Enterprise Minister Heather Humphreys a suite of supports to help industry tackle carbon emissions and find opportunities in the new technologies emerging to replace fossil based production.

Minister Humphreys said nine regional just transition teams would be set up to assist workers in carbon intensive industries that would have to be phased out.

She reiterated her commitment to assisting peat workers in the midlands already facing job losses in Bord na Mona and said the supports being put in place there would be replicated around the country to provide career advice, skills assessment and training and assist with securing alternative employment to workers in vulnerable jobs.

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