'Inaction on climate risks tech sector investment' - Sefcovic
Ireland risks losing inward investment from the tech sector unless it ramps-up ambition in tackling climate change.
The European Commission vice-president for energy union, Maros Sefcovic, told the Irish Independent that the State risked being fined for missing 2020 emission reduction targets, and it could also have an impact on its ability to attract investment.
While the State can buy carbon credits from countries which overachieve their targets, which would likely cost millions of euro, inaction would lead to higher overall costs, he added.
"There is the prospect that Ireland will not meet 2020 targets [to reduce emissions by 20pc]," he said. "I think Ireland can buy emissions allocations from other countries which are overachieving in their effort, but the real problem is it will be more and more difficult, and cost more money, because the target for Ireland for 2030 is 30pc and more difficult and then it will become more costly.
"I think it will also become kind of a societal issue. Ireland is always promoting herself, and rightly so, as very innovative, modern and a progressive country and you have ambitions to be leaders in this new economy. I think there is a higher demand from all the tech sector you have here because they want a very clean environmental story.
"They want to use renewable energy, live in a clean environment and promote technology - this is something which is very important.
"The Government should be extremely focused on how to organise the whole transformation in a way you don't face the same challenge in the future."
Speaking at the Climate Innovation Summit in Dublin Castle, he also said workers in traditionally polluting industries such as turf production could not be "abandoned" as we move to a low-carbon future.
A "new economic future" was needed for the midlands and other parts of the EU reliant on mining and industries incompatible with tackling climate change.
Last month, Bord na Móna announced plans to move away from turf production by 2025 - five years earlier than previously stated - which will result in the loss of 430 jobs across the midlands.
"How do you make this very challenging transition fair?" he said. "We cannot just abandon the people who have worked in the mines or peat-fields in Ireland or traditional heavy energy use industries.
"We cannot say we are moving to a new stage and we don't care. That's the wrong approach and it will slow us down."
The commission is working with regions to develop new opportunities in consultation with local communities.