The Programme for Government lacks the key clear goals we need to move our people and economy forward into a post carbon future.
The Environmental Pillar, an advocacy coalition of 28 Irish national environmental NGOs, does not believe that the Programme for Government goes far enough in tackling climate change and will force increasingly difficult decisions on future Governments. It considers that, while the document is strong on rhetoric in relation to climate change it has omitted some important actions that are necessary to prepare Ireland for the years ahead.
Here are a number of key areas that the government need to address that are not covered in the Programme for Government.
- Reducing energy demand
The National Low Carbon Transition and Mitigation has four key sections but it does not include a plan for reducing energy demand. Reducing the energy we use must play an important role in Ireland’s response to climate change.
One international expert Professor Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the UK, has put forward the scale of the measures needed for Ireland to reduce its energy demand by 40 to 70 per cent in the next 15 years.
- Retrofit in the region of 1.2 million homes. This would demand serious investment of around €3bn a year for the next 15 years. The benefit of this would be a substantial increase in employment and the alleviation of fuel poverty.
- A maximum emissions standard on cars would need to be brought in along with strong incentives to go electric.
- Stringent efficiency standards on electrical equipment. For example all new fridges must be rated A+++. This should start with Government procurement.
There is serious lack of ambition in relation to solar energy projects. International experts have estimated that as much as 30 per cent of Ireland’s energy needs could come from placing solar panels on all the south facing roofs. Households need incentives to invest in domestic energy production. Solar power needs to become a pillar of Ireland’s energy future but right now it’s a footnote.
- It is unclear why the Department of Agriculture has been listed as the key department pushing solar. This appears to be out of step with the decision to create a new department dedicated to climate change.
- Public Transport
The Programme for Government is strong on rhetoric around sustainable transport but weak on detail. Stronger investment in public transport infrastructure is needed to prepare our towns and cities for a low carbon future.
- Essentially the Programme for Government recommits to what was adopted in the Capital Plan published last year. If they follow through on the plan, twice as much money will be invested in roads as in public transport between now and 2020.
- On electric cars, it states they want Ireland to become a ‘leader in the take-up of electric vehicles’ but this ambition is not met with the necessary strong action as all it commits to is setting up a task force to work on this goal. It is already accepted that we are not going to meet our target of 10% electric vehicles by 2020.
- The promise of a review of public transport policy is welcome but a review of private transport policy is much more urgently needed.
“This Programme for Government, while saying all the right things, gives no impression that the Government is even considering the challenges faced by Ireland in limiting global warming to well below 2° C,” said Dr Aedín McLoughlin spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar.
“Yet again we are seeing politicians being strong on rhetoric and weak on action when it comes to climate change. The time has come for Ireland to commit to deep reductions in energy demand from now till 2030 and engage in a massive build programme of zero carbon energy supply. In particular, it is vital that we swiftly move away from reliance on fossil fuels. We call for a moratorium on all hydrocarbon exploration in Ireland, offshore and on-shore. We also call for immediate implementation of measures to reduce emissions from agriculture. The days of any sector getting off their obligations in relation to cutting emissions is over.”