Wednesday 20 November 2019

Action on climate has a life-changing impact

Nothing is more likely to induce a sense of fatalism than the words
Nothing is more likely to induce a sense of fatalism than the words "the Government does not underestimate the scale of what this entails". They were spoken by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as he pledged to put climate change at the centre of policy, across all State departments. Stock image
Editorial

Editorial

Nothing is more likely to induce a sense of fatalism than the words "the Government does not underestimate the scale of what this entails". They were spoken by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as he pledged to put climate change at the centre of policy, across all State departments.

The fact is that we have no choice but to take radical action. It is a tall order, and will, as was pointed out, require "fundamental societal transformation".

In a pre-industrial age, Voltaire wrote that "men argue, nature acts". Climate change suggests that man has lost the argument and the impact on nature has been devastating.

Mr Varadkar said nothing less than "fundamental societal transformation" was necessary to decarbonise the economy. The moral case for altering our behaviour is overwhelming in that those least responsible for it are paying the greatest price through rising temperatures, drought and crop failures in the developing world.

There are practical steps we can take and the case for taking them is overwhelming. In all, some 106 actions have been listed that will have major implications for our economy, transport, energy use, construction and agriculture. They will change the way we live.

In our complacency, we have found it easier to destroy than to change. It is easy to point the finger and scoff at the Government's record on the environment. Especially when one considers commitments to conservation and the water charges fiasco. But this is a national issue requiring change from all of us. That means exercising our social responsibilities. More than a million species face potential extinction as a result of disappearing habitats, changing ecosystems and acidifying oceans.

It is already too late to fixate on what has been destroyed. Our children's future requires a focus on what can be protected. How we adapt to what we have unleashed will have a major impact on their lives.

Health insurance market must treat elderly fairly

Despite spending some €14.6bn this year in the Budget on health, nearly 46pc of the population - equating to around 2.15 million people - still feels the need to have private health insurance.

This says much about confidence in our health system. These subscribers paid €2.53bn in premium payments last year alone. All the more reason to be concerned that the regulator for health insurers has felt it necessary to upbraid firms for deliberately targeting younger consumers.

The accusation is that older members are actually discouraged from taking out plans. It is understandable that the industry should seek to aggressively draw in younger clients, and it can also be argued that it is they who subsidise older customers. But only up to a point.

Given that the market has greatly recovered from the crash - and that 30,000 more people have cover for in-patient care compared with last year - the industry must take care to make sure that the elderly are treated absolutely fairly. All ages must be made aware of what is on offer.

Insurers are more than entitled to make a profit.

There is a concern, however, that the minimum-benefits rules which spell out the lowest benefit level that each product provides have not changed in two decades.

A review of the regulations, as the regulator suggests, might, at the very least, restrict the ways insurers have to segment consumers and tailor their prices by "life stage".

Irish Independent

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