Republic of Ireland news

Fine Gael politician rejects criticism of an all-party climate action plan

Communications minister Richard Bruton
Michelle Devane

A FINE Gael politician has rejected criticism of an all-party climate action plan, describing the measures as "transformational" and far from "baby steps".

A major report on how Ireland should tackle its greenhouse gas emissions was passed by the Climate Action Committee last week.

People Before Profit's (PPP) Richard Boyd Barrett described the committee's support for increased carbon taxes as "ill-judged" and said his party would have to discuss how to respond to the government's "baby steps" on climate change.

Committee chairwoman Hildegarde Naughton said she was disappointed that Sinn Féin and PPP had opposed the report but she said she does not believe it affects overall confidence in it.

She said everyone knows Ireland is a laggard when it comes to climate change action but the debate needed to move on.

"This is a huge challenge and it has been welcomed by all NGOs, they've been very positive in relation to this all-party report," Ms Naughton said.

"I think it shows great ambition."

She added: "This is far from baby steps. That is what is important. So I hope all parties and none will get behind this now."

The report includes a range of actions to address the threat of climate change, including raising carbon taxes from €20 per tonne to €80 per tonne by the year 2030, increasing the share of renewables in electricity generation to 70 per cent by 2030, improving home retrofitting incentives, restoring peatlands and rewarding farmers for maintaining ecosystems.

TDs and senators from Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour and the Greens voted in favour of the report but Sinn Féin and People Before Profit opposed it on the basis that carbon taxes will only hurt the poor.

"We've had enough criticism, we know that we're laggards. That's absolutely clear," she said.

"That debate is now over... we have to move on now with the solutions."

Ms Naughton said the yellow vest protests in France had been at the "forefront" of the thoughts of committee members as they considered how to increase carbon taxes in a fair manner.

"If we don't bring people with us this is not going to be a success," she said.

The protesters have staged a series of demonstrations in cities throughout France over high taxes and inequality.

The Galway West TD said the committee's recommendations proved that the Oireachtas is listening to the citizens and the young people who are particularly concerned about the issue.

Protesters young and old have taken to the streets across Europe calling on governments to act on climate change.

"It is ambitious. It is transformational, but it's only the start of it, now we have to implement it," she said.

The report is now being considered by communications minister Richard Bruton who is preparing the government's new strategy to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Bruton is expected to publish the plan in the coming weeks.

The chairwoman is determined that the report, which took seven months to complete, will not end up on the shelf and she said accountability will be key to that.

"Richard Bruton is going to have an action plan that will have clear time frames and targets, set out for government departments," she said.

"If they're not reaching those, they'll be able to be called before our committee who will now have public accounts committee-type powers to hold them to account.

"So there will be greater accountability and transparency around how we are progressing. That's what's transformational about it."

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