‘Scrap 2040 plan and get serious on climate’

Leo Varadkar must scrap the Government’s 2040 national development plan if he is serious about climate change, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said.

At the Greens’ European election event yesterday, Mr Ryan insisted that the promise-filled plan must be binned to help address growing climate change fears.

Speaking alongside his party’s candidates, Senator Grace O’Sullivan for Ireland South, Councillor Ciarán Cuffe for Dublin, and Saoirse McHugh for Midlands-North West, Mr Ryan said it is not good enough for the Government to take “symbolic” climate change steps.

Insisting on real reforms to back up the headline- grabbing promises, he said if Mr Varadkar is genuine about his recent climate change comments, he must scrap the 2014 national development plan.

“What the Taoiseach said last week says it all — he said our approach to climate change is symbolic. That is not good enough.

“We had the top European civil servant in the Oireachtas on Thursday saying every country has to commit to going ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050.

“[French] President Emmanuel Macron and eight other countries agreed to that last week, but our Taoiseach didn’t.

“It’s difficult for the Taoiseach, but he has to give up the 2040 national development plan because it is not fit for purpose. It only gets us 30% of the way towards our 2030 target, but does nothing to bring us to the longer target,” he said.

“We are calling on the Taoiseach to stop the symbolism; start taking real action; start joining other progressive European countries; admit the national development plan, which had no climate assessment done, is not fit for purpose and has to go,” Mr Ryan said.

“We want real action, not just words.”

Mr Varadkar launched the 2040 national development plan in February 2018, saying it will see almost €116 billion invested in a series of road, housing, and infrastructure projects over the next two decades.

The Government insists the plan is needed to ensure there is a coherent framework in place that will not be repeatedly changed, depending on which party is in power.

However, Opposition parties have constantly questioned the value of the plan, saying it amounts to Government promising measures in the distant future, which have no way of being proved accurate or not at this stage.

Meanwhile, speaking at the same launch — which saw candidates hold up placards calling for EU support for energy community schemes, community farms, and greater biodiversity protections — Mr Cuffe said the climate change message is ‘resonating’ with voters.

Elsewhere, an environmental expert has said people need to eat less beef if they want to reduce their carbon footprint.

University College Cork environmental engineering professor Jerry Murphy emphasised the need for everyone to make changes if Ireland is to reach its climate change targets.

“If we want to decarbonise, and again this is something which is very difficult to say, we should eat less beef,” he said.

“I hope I don’t have to apologise in a week for saying that. If we grew fish there is 10 times less carbon per calorie in fish [than beef],” he added, making the comments at yesterday’s ESRI climate change conference in Dublin.

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