Monday 15 July 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'A gentle nudge is unlikely to stop apocalypse... but more taxes might'

 

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD during a Climate Action media briefing on Giving Ireland a Sustainable Future at TU Dublin Grangegorman, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD during a Climate Action media briefing on Giving Ireland a Sustainable Future at TU Dublin Grangegorman, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Throughout the centuries Irish people have routinely blamed God for our wild weather.

Perhaps that's why Taoiseach Leo Varadkar chose a church to warn of an impending "climate apocalypse".

Preaching from the altar of St Laurence's Church in Grangegorman, the Taoiseach said when he was growing up the "greatest fear" was the world would be destroyed "in a mutually assured nuclear Armageddon".

"For young people growing up today, one of their greatest fears is that the world will be destroyed in a climate apocalypse.

"It doesn't have to happen. It's not inevitable. It can be stopped. Action can be taken," he said.

The Cabinet arrived at the venue in a hybrid bus, leaving their selection of gas-guzzling Audis, Mercs and Skodas back at Government Buildings in the city centre.

Such is the threat level from climate change that there were 11 ministers on stage.

Former Rose of Tralee-turned-science-ambassador Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin was drafted in to MC the event and given 18 minutes to quiz the ministers. The journalists got 17 minutes for their questions.

They were well prepped - but Mr Varadkar and Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton were keen to lead from the front.

Mr Bruton, who is also in charge of fixing the broadband riddle, told us about his admiration for how David Attenborough has "brought the natural world into our living rooms". He's also a fan of teen activist Greta Thunberg.

The minister said that in the last decade Ireland achieved things that would have once been unthinkable, particularly when it came to social reform.

"We can and we must do the same with the greatest change that faces humanity," he urged.

It was the stuff of 'Braveheart' that should get us excited - and then you read the small text. All 145 pages of it.

We can blame the Government for the state of the health service, the housing crisis and aspects of mismanagement in the economy. We can claim that it is behind the curve on responding to the climate emergency.

However, the plan makes it clear that in the long term we will have nobody to blame but ourselves if the country doesn't start to lower its carbon footprint.

Mr Varadkar indicated he wants to adopt a 'nudge' approach in an effort to get people and businesses "to change behaviour and adapt new technologies through incentives, disincentives, regulations and information".

He may well have stolen the idea from David Cameron, who set up a so-called 'Nudge Unit' when he became British prime minister in 2010.

Its official title was 'the Behavioural Insights Team' and its task was to encourage better behaviour among UK citizens. It let you know that other people had filled in their tax returns (so you should do yours now) and reminded you to pay your car tax.

A gentle push is unlikely to stop the apocalypse though. Taxes might.

Irish Independent

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