Friday 20 September 2019

Editorial: 'We will reap the whirlwind of stalling on climate issue'

Stock image
Stock image


A solved problem can often create several new problems.

It goes part of the way to explaining why successive governments have long avoided taking action on climate.

The fear of a political backlash has resulted in paralysed decision-making.

Taking steps to address our inadequacies in this area would upset taxpayers, farmers and business interests.

Why bite the bullet when you can just pass responsibility on to the next generation?

Now the country's leading economic thinktank, the ESRI, is showing the cost of continually failing to address the problem.

The bill has to be paid eventually and the tab and interest are mounting up.

Given Fine Gael's focus on the economy and being seen as financially prudent, the ESRI research should focus minds within Government.

It is a timely warning that unless new policies are enacted - retro-fitting, electrifying transport fleet, no more burning of coal and turf - the citizen will be hit in the pocket.

Last month, US economists William Nordhaus and Paul Romer won the Nobel Prize in Economics for their work on climate change. Nordhaus has suggested a carbon tax is among the best ways to put a real cost on the use of burning fossil fuels and so reducing greenhouse emissions.

But Taoiseach Leo Varadkar wants to lower the tax burden on workers. How do you do that when carbon taxes have to rise to meet our global obligations?

One possible solution is to reduce taxes on labour, but hike them on consumption. Adopting a 'polluter pays' principle rewards people for doing the 'right' thing.

However, there is also a need for public investment to facilitate a transition.

You can't punish motorists with high carbon taxes if there is no public transport available. Nor can you hit households in the pocket for using oil, peat and coal, unless you look after those who cannot afford to upgrade their homes and heating systems.

Having said that, retro-fitting and energy efficiency is labour intensive and a good job creator too. Therefore, why would it not be worth public investment and tax incentives?

And why can't we be really good at this?

The starting point is accepting there is a problem. In our relatively youthful Government, there doesn't appear to be any climate change deniers.

What there is a lack of leadership on the issue. Climate change is unquestionably one of the largest issues facing this and future generations.

What's the point in having a young Taoiseach if he's not willing to face up to the problems of his generation?

Irish Independent

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