Gov­ern­ment plan to tackle cli­mate change is laud­able but lacks specifics

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION -

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.

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