Friday 24 January 2020

Caroline O'Doherty: 'Likely backlash should not drown out the reasons behind demanding retrofit plans'

Energy use in Irish homes and other buildings accounts for 13pc of national emissions. Stock image
Energy use in Irish homes and other buildings accounts for 13pc of national emissions. Stock image

Caroline O'Doherty

The outcome of the latest climate actions announced today is intended to be cleaner, more comfortable, more energy-efficient rental properties that cut both carbon emissions and energy bills.

The interim result, however, will be unhappy landlords.

Already they have many gripes with the existing regulatory environment in which they operate, and the more vocal have warned repeatedly that placing any more demands on them will drive them out of the market.

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Fewer landlords means fewer rental properties and fewer options for those priced out of buying, they warn.

In a housing crisis situation, who wouldn't listen nervously to that?

Energy use in Irish homes and other buildings accounts for 13pc of national emissions while agriculture accounts for 32pc yet remains largely untouched by climate action.

Who couldn't be aware of the imbalance in that?

The retrofitting plan is hugely ambitious, or just plain unrealistic, and other options such as the speedy roll-out of district heating may turn out to be a more effective response.

Who wouldn't accept the rationale in that?

But another nagging refrain won't go away: the one that says Ireland has to get its act together on carbon reduction.

This country is so far off target in terms of commitments made to cut carbon that it's not only embarrassing, but grossly irresponsible. We may criticise Donald Trump for withdrawing from the Paris Agreement but if we're not going to come close to meeting its demands, are we any better?

Those are the voices vying for Richard Bruton's attention as he prepares to head to Madrid for the UN climate meeting next week - a meeting that will hear how targets are going to get tougher.

Undoubtedly his rental retrofitting plans will cause controversy, and how far he ultimately goes in opting for sticks over carrots in deciding which measures to adopt will be at least partly down to how much noise objectors can make.

But in the inevitable clamour to make known what's wrong with the plan, the intent behind it should not be lost.

Cleaner, more comfortable, more energy-efficient properties that cut both carbon emissions and energy bills.

Long term, there are lots of potential winners. Who wouldn't hope that it works?

Irish Independent

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