Saturday 21 September 2019

Paul Melia: 'Project is a small step in right direction - but our politicians should be leading by example'


Heated debate: Protesters in Parliament Square in London demand action on the climate. PHOTO: PRESS ASSOCIATION
Heated debate: Protesters in Parliament Square in London demand action on the climate. PHOTO: PRESS ASSOCIATION
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

The €77m allocated to seven flagship climate projects will reduce emissions by 200,000 tonnes a year. This represents a cut of 0.33pc, and is clearly a drop in the ocean. That said, it is a positive signal from Government. It is investing in projects aimed at decarbonising the economy, and all of the projects have the potential to be scaled up, the district heating systems in particular.

These will utilise the heat generated from the Poolbeg Incinerator and an Amazon data centre to heat homes, heat that would otherwise go to waste. It can be replicated - for example, in the UK, a municipal swimming pool is heated using waste heat from a crematorium. There's potential to utilise heat generated from food processing plants and other industrial processes here, which would otherwise be wasted.

The Dublin local authorities should be commended for including as a condition of planning that new buildings in south Dublin and the Docklands must be capable of utilising district heating. Other local authorities should follow when approving large-scale developments.

But political leadership also needs to step up. Asked if all ministers should drive hybrid or electric cars, which would be cleaner and cheaper to run than petrol or diesel, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar refused to issue a diktat.

He said he had asked An Garda Siochána, which provides State cars to the office of the Taoiseach, Tanáiste, President and Justice Minister, to see if this was feasible.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe added that most ministerial cars were leased by the ministers, and that he looked forward to examining the "hybrid opportunity" when renewing the lease on his.

Our politicians must do better. There's no reason why a hybrid car would not fulfil any ministerial driving demands, and switching from fossil fuel motors would at the very least send a signal of Government commitment to action.

The €77m is only the beginning, and there's little argument of the merits of all the projects. It would be interesting to see what projects failed to get over the line, but these applications are not being revealed at this time.

This funding is better late than never. The World Meteorological Organisation says 2018 is on course to be the fourth-hottest on record. The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years. Our climate is changing, and time is running out.

Irish Independent

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