Monday 22 July 2019

Government plan to tackle climate change is laudable but lacks specifics

Editorial Comment

As governments across the world finally begin to take the threat of climate change seriously, Leo Varadkar and his administration have published a lengthy and highly ambitious strategy aimed at dramatically reducing the pollution generated by Ireland.

It is a laudable document - and one that is long overdue - but it is lacking in specifics and it remains difficult to see how all of its lofty ambitions can be fulfilled in the relatively short time frame set out in the strategy.

If the plan was to be enacted in full, it will affect every single aspect of people's daily lives, from the houses we live in to the cars we drive and the food we eat.

Right now, Ireland is 85 per cent dependent on fossil fuels. The Government's plan aims to cut Ireland's net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

To achieve this Mr Varadkar says that Government policy will initially aim to reduce Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions by two per cent a year up to 2030.

So far so good, but according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland is still set to fall far short of its carbon emission reduction targets between now and 2030 even if all of the Government's proposals are enacted.

There is also the question of the plan's impact on business and the simple cost and practicality of introducing some of its key measures.

Planned hikes in carbon taxes; a plan to bring parity to the cost of petrol and diesel and the proposal to force all fossil fuel cars off Irish roads by 2045, will have a significant impact on business and trade and are likely to face fierce opposition.

In order to rid Ireland of fossil fuel cars and get people into electric or zero emission vehicles, the Government plan is to install a charging network that can cater for 800,000 vehicles by 2030.

That will involve every local authority providing 200 new on street charging points every year between now and 2030.

It's certainly a worthy plan but is it really achievable? Even the quickest glance at the farrago surrounding the national broadband roll out - and its spiralling costs - would suggest it will pose massive and costly problems.

While there are problems with the plan it does contain some measures that are definitely doable. Plans for congestion charges and banning fossil fuel vehicles from urban centres have worked elsewhere and can certainly work here too.

So too can plans to renovate and retrofit homes to make them more efficient and environmentally friendly and the proposal to encourage people to generate their own power and sell it back to the national grid.

The possible introduction of 'single use plastic' tax, similar to the plastic bag levy, would also seem to be a no brainer.

Only the most ardent climate change denier will insist this plan is unnecessary. The challenge now is for the Government to get its ambitious - and potentially very expensive - plan over the line.

To do that people will need to hear far less ambitious but insubstantial pledges and far more specific details.

Enniscorthy Guardian