Monday 14 October 2019

Editorial: 'When it comes to flights of fancy, we've millions to burn'

Sean Fleming, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee
Sean Fleming, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee


Have you heard about the country that forked out €90m so that it won't have to pay a fine? Or which is happy to shell out €5m for an airport that doesn't have any flights?

No? Well you're living in it.

We will return to the airport travesty in a moment. But let us first address what Sean Fleming, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, has described as "a charade". The payout of €86.8m of taxpayers' money to buy so-called carbon credits which he rightly said was "horrific" and "gross hypocrisy".

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We may also have to pay a further €60m to "buy our way out of pretending" we are meeting our renewable energy targets.

The extent to which we have become recidivists when it comes to pick-pocketing the public purse comes as a bit of a shock.

Most of us would not recognise a "carbon credit" if it hit us over the head. Now it seems they have.

They have done so through an elaborate and massively expensive ruse, by which we can escape meeting our responsibilities.

We simply buy unused emissions from somewhere else. We are already the self-confessed EU laggards when it comes to meeting our obligations.

Yet we will pay tens of millions for the unused emission credits to create the illusion that by the end of 2020, we will be below our target. But only because we have banked credits from elsewhere.

What a wonderful message to pass on to our children on our commitment to a planet we have done more to destroy than any previous generation.

Speaking on RTÉ yesterday, the director of Friends of the Earth Ireland, Oisín Coghlan, said the revelations show "that the cost of inaction will always be greater than the cost of action".

The moral case for meeting our obligation is overwhelming, but the financial cost is also compelling.

We could face fines or costs of between €2bn-€6bn if we do not meet our 2030 targets.

Let us now return to the aforementioned millions set aside for a runway by Transport Minister Shane Ross.

Waterford Airport has the distinction of not having had any commercial flights for a few years.

Not only that, both the ministers for Finance and for Regional Development were against the grant.

In the real world, it makes no sense; but in the political bubble where votes are the only currency, cost is set at naught.

As TD John Halligan put it: "If people want to say it's parish pump politics, I don't care. It's a big hit for the south east."

This very week the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council unleashed a barrage of criticism against the Government for "repeatedly" breaching its own budgetary targets.

Not to worry.

There is always a few million to spare for a flight of fancy in the airport with no flights.

Irish Independent

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