The Environmental Pillar welcome Budget 2016 but warn that a number of measures do not effectively prepare the country for a low carbon future.
The Environmental Pillar, a coalition of 28 Irish national environmental NGOs, is now calling on the government to support the measures announced in the budget with a robust plan to help the transition to a low energy future.
Without effective planning for a carbon free future, it is communities and businesses that will pay the price through inefficient housing and expensive transport infrastructure.
In addition to the failure to position Ireland for the substantial emission reductions that we have signed up to, there is also a lack of commitment to the natural environment through a failure to provide essential support to the Environment Fund.
Plans to substantially increase the development of new housing is necessary and commendable given the current housing crisis. The Environmental Pillar is calling on the government to build this new wave of housing stock to passive house standard. This will mean that that those living in these new houses will benefit for many years to come from low energy bills. This proposed increase in building puts the government in a strong position to benefit from economies of scale in relation to the material costs associated with the new standard. Working with Irish materials suppliers and the construction industry we could be well placed to drive innovation in this area.
While the government has committed more money to its energy efficient homes scheme it would be extremely shortsighted to allow new homes to be built to a poor insulation standard as it is far harder to achieve a high efficiency standard from an existing home through a refit.
We must acknowledge the positive move to commit extra funding to the Better Homes Programme which is an valuable element in improving the efficiency of our total housing stock.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan today announced the reduction of taxes to road hauliers in an effort to combat the increasing cost to business. Driving down the cost to business of transport, in the medium to long term, will only come from a modal shift away from road transport and moving freight to lower emission systems such as rail.
Ireland may not be in a position to provide effective rail freight alternative at present but investment and tax initiatives need to move us in that direction.
The government missed another important opportunity to fund the protection of Ireland’s environment through investing in the Environment Fund.
A huge amount of environmental protection measures, such as recycling initiatives, litter and waste enforcement, pollution monitoring, and wildlife conservation, are paid for from the Environment Fund. In the last three years the revenue into the fund has fallen by a third from roughly €65m to and estimated €43m. In the coming years the fund, which draws from the plastic bag tax and the landfill levy, is expected to fall further.
To prevent serious environmental impacts from the diminishing fund it is essential that the government commit further funding to the fund. The Environmental Pillar is disappointed that such a commitment to our shared environment did not happen in Budget 2016.
Spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar Charles Stanley Smith said:
‘Minister Howlin told the Dáil today that ‘sustainability is the key to progress’ I couldn’t agree more but we need to start putting this into practice.
‘The stabilisation of Ireland’s finances in recent years has been commendable but it will count for little if we fail to prepared our communities and businesses for future shocks.
‘Ireland’s commitments around climate change mean that we must prepare now for a low energy world now.
‘We need a new type of politics which moves away from the shortsightedness of the five year electoral cycle and works to deliver a better Ireland for our children and theirs.’