Government climate plan will see departments pay for missed environment targets

Government departments will be forced to pay out of their own pockets if they fail to hit specific multi-year environmental targets, potentially putting other services at risk if they continue to ignore the climate crisis.

The move will be revealed today as part of a new multi-billion euro climate change action plan, which will also commit to ramping up electric car usage, retro-fitting thousands of homes, and a personal carbon tax credit system as soon as next year.

Under high-profile plans to tackle the climate crisis and to address growing voter demands for green policies, the Government will today publish a two-decade-long climate action plan it claims will herald a new era in Ireland’s approach to the global crisis.

The 2021 to 2036 plan will be the subject of a special Cabinet meeting this morning, and will focus on specific areas crucial to protecting the environment. 

Several Government sources have labelled the promises as a landmark moment in Ireland’s climate change awakening, saying the plan will give the issue the same legal priority as the finances of the country.

It is still likely to fall short of long-term climate campaigner demands, with Greens leader Eamon Ryan last night warning that the changes, while welcome, will mean little unless the separate Project Ireland 2040 national development plan is scrapped or curtailed.

The cross-departmental climate change action plan includes:

  • New priorities: Individual Government departments will be ordered to take full responsibility for their climate change commitments, and will be forced to pay out of their own budgets — risking scrapping non-climate change plans — if they fail to implement environmental targets
  • Money: Three five-year carbon budgets will be launched between 2021 and 2036 to ensure a clear climate change financial road map is in place for all future governments over the period;
  • Oversight: An existing independent climate action council chaired by economist John Fitzgerald will be beefed up and given new legal powers alongside the Oireachtas climate change committee to reprimand Government departments for failing to meeting their climate change targets;
  • Personal plans: The Government will commit to launching a long-flagged carbon tax in the next budget, with a likely “carbon cheque” or tax rebate system for people actively pursuing environmentally-friendly life changes due to be finalised by Mr Fitzgerald’s group later this year;
  • Housing: Funding for thousands of existing homes to be retro-fitted with better insulation, solar panels, and heat-saving glass windows will be made available alongside potential plans for new eco-friendly homes;
  • Transport: A new push will be made to drastically increase the 8,000 electric cars being used in Ireland, with fresh incentives for drivers likely after the Government’s previous failed attempts to entice interest in the vehicles saw its 200,000 electric car target for 2020 suggested in 2009 cut to just 20,000 last year
  • Agriculture: While Government sources downplayed any suggestion that farmers will be told to reduce their cattle herd numbers, farmers will be encouraged to switch to “innovative” farming techniques outlined in a recent Teagasc reform document

The plan is based on a recent Oireachtas cross-party climate change committee report published earlier this year.

However, speaking to the Irish Examiner, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan warned that the promises will mean little unless the Government also scraps or severely curtails its Project Ireland 2040 national development plan.

The plan follows weekend revelations Ireland is in danger of being hit with a €7bn bill by 2030 as the country will exceed its internationally-binding carbon emissions limits by at least 75% over the next decade unless action is taken now.

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