Governments need to abolish taxes on clean energy if the world is to tackle climate change, entrepreneur Richard Branson has said.
Speaking at the launch of the world’s first visitor centre dedicated to climate change in Co Wicklow, he said it would be “extremely easy” for governments to drive a move to renewables which would reduce emissions and lower energy prices.
“For entrepreneurs, the battle that faces us of global catastrophe is an enormous opportunity,” he said.
“All a government has to do is tip the balance towards clean energy - it’s extremely easy - is no taxes on clean energy, but taxes on dirty energy. It’s worked with cigarettes, where pushing the price up stops people smoking.
“Anyone in a position of influence has got to persuade our politicians of the sense of it. Dirty fuel prices have gone up in the last four months. If we had more clean energy than demand for dirty energy, fuel prices wouldn’t have gone up."
Mr Branson was in Wicklow to officially launch the €1.5m Cool Planet Experience (CPE), an interactive exhibition which sets out in stark terms the challenge of climate change - and the solutions.
Founder Norman Crowley said the ‘green’ message had to change for people to take action to tackle climate change.
He said governments did not realise the “multi-billion euro opportunities” which arise from reducing emissions. He also said the ‘green’ message needed to change.
“We have had ten environment ministers in Ireland since 1992 and in that time, disgracefully little has been done about climate change,” he said.
“Climate change is not a big issue for government because it’s not a priority for voters. It’s not a priority for voters because voters think it’s too painful to change because the green lobby has been telling them for years that they need to go back to the 7th century and lead simple lives.
“Our message is that with the latest technologies, people can now have their cake and eat it. The green message needs to change.”
Ireland faced fines of up to €500m out to 2020 due to inaction, he added.
The CPE aims to highlight that solving the climate issue will be “really cool”, and is possible using existing technologies. INM is media partner to the exhibition, which opens to the public next month.
A registered charity, the CPE sets out the impacts of climate change being felt today and the science behind the changes.
Upon entry, visitors are asked to calculate their carbon footprint, setting out what type of diet they enjoy, mode of transport used, use of devices and details around their homes. This information is stored on a wristband.
Throughout the tour, which lasts just under an hour, they are asked to complete a series of tasks and games which show how being more sustainable, such as using public transport, recycling waste and avoiding throwing away food, can have positive impacts.
As they complete tasks, their carbon footprint is re-adjusted. The point is made that simple lifestyle changes can have an impact..
At the end of the tour, they are asked to make a series of pledges, which could include walking to school instead of being driven, lobbying politicians or committing to buying an electric vehicle.
Some 15 people can be accommodated on each tour, with prices ranging from €5.50 per child to €9 for an adult. Family tickets and concessions for OAPs will also be available. School trips will be free. All monies generated from tours will be re-invested in the exhibition.
The content is produced by CPE with DMW Creative. Supporters include the ESB, Vodafone, NTR Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency and a number of universities including Maynooth University and UCC.
Ten more centres in other countries are planned over the next three years, including one in Dubai which is due to open in June.