Climate Change Report: The last throw of the dice as Government reveals radical plans

Radical changes to how we heat our homes, travel to work, and farm need to occur for Ireland to avoid paying billions of euro in environmental fines by 2030, the Government has said.

Climate Change Report: The last throw of the dice as Government reveals radical plans

By Daniel McConnell, Elaine Loughlin, and Caroline O’Doherty

Radical changes to how we heat our homes, travel to work, and farm need to occur for Ireland to avoid paying billions of euro in environmental fines by 2030, the Government has said. Launching its Climate Action Plan report, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he and his ministers are seeking to “nudge” people and businesses to change behaviour over the next decade.

The plan has already been rubbished by the opposition for being “uncosted and vague” and includes figures that “simply don’t add up”.

The Government confirmed that carbon tax will quadruple from €20 per tonne to €80 per tonne by 2030. Based on current prices, the imposition of €80 per tonne would add up to 18c a litre on petrol and more on diesel.

The plan promises to ban petrol and diesel cars from town centres altogether with the Government aiming to have 1m electric vehicles on the road by 2030.

Some of the biggest changes will be to the transport choices people have to make and the way they heat their homes. It will not be possible to buy a new petrol or diesel car from 2030 and any still on the road by 2045 will be ineligible for the NCT. New homes will not be allowed to have oil heating systems from 2022 and gas will be prohibited from 2025.

No date has been set for a ban on the replacement of existing fossil fuel systems with newer versions but that would appear to be a next step. Any such prohibition, plus the rising cost of heating fuels due to the carbon tax, will push householders towards retrofitting for improved insulation as well as heat pump installation, but there are hefty costs involved.

The plan targets 500,000 homes — public and private — for retrofitting and 600,000 for heat pump installation through a range of incentives, including neighbourhood packages that enable large numbers of households to have works carried out together to avail of discounts, low-cost loans, and payback schemes using long-term repayment through ESB bills.

Oppositions parties raised concerns around a lack of public transport moves in the plan. Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the Government continues to “fudge” any commitments on bringing down carbon to net zero by 2050.

“The Government are fudging that,” he said. “They are saying we will agree if Europe agrees. I think we need clarity, we need ambition, we need to set the goals.”

While he said there had been some good work done, which should be acknowledged, Mr Ryan said there is still a lack of commitment and urgency from the Government. He said:

I think the [phrase] ‘consideration will be given’ is used 67 times in the report; consideration is good but we should start by committing absolute certainty

Fianna Fáil raised concerns that the plan has not been costed. Giving a guarded welcome to the report, climate spokesman Timmy Dooley also pointed to the lack of plans to encourage people to use public transport.

Mr Dooley said: “One of the other aspects that gives me concern about this plan is that it’s not costed.

“I was a little taken by the Government decamping from one side of the city to the other on one of three diesel hybrid buses which the State owns. It’s worth noting that in the last seven or eight months, the State has bought 200 dirty diesel buses and today there is an effort to show that great green image.”

The Labour Party said Fine Gael’s numbers simply don’t add up and that it seems to have abandoned the international goal of halting global warming at 1.5C. TD Seán Sherlock said: “There are many important actions in the plan, including a number of issues that Labour has promoted such as a Just Transition task force.

“But if the overall target is anything less than reducing our carbon dioxide emissions to 33m tonnes by 2030, the Government’s plan has fallen at the first hurdle.”

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