The Government has been warned its Climate Action Plan will hurt rural Ireland and stop families buying tractors and burning turf.
Environment Minister Richard Bruton faced the criticisms from Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae as he took questions from across parties about the new roadmap to reduce Ireland’s carbon emissions.
While Mr Bruton insisted no home would be forced to stop buying tractors or burning fuel, he admitted that polluters would ultimately have to pay the price.
Debate is mounting around the plan, which commits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making Ireland carbon neutral by 2050. But sectors will face reduction rates while attempts will also be made to overhaul the use of fossil-fuel car supplies and the burning of oil and gas in homes.
Mr Healy-Rae complained that Ireland is being forced to make these radical changes as a small country while others such as China and India are doing little.
“We are all under the same sky, minister, we have to be realistic,” the Independent TD told the Oireachtas committee on climate action.
Climate action changes would “hurt farmers and the self-employed” who need to use cars and families who burn turf and gas, said Mr Healy-Rae.
He said he hadn’t seen any electric tractors anywhere, adding that there are brand new models with older engines being sold to India and China. “People in rural Ireland are frightened, shocked, and afraid,” said the TD, claiming that the plan is only being launched on the back of the success of the Green Party in the recent elections.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are tripping over each other to be green and people in the sandwich in between will suffer
Mr Bruton rejected several of the claims. While denying families would be forced to stop using tractors, raising cattle, or burning turf, he earlier insisted
to TDs and senators
that people need “to recognise that the polluter pays”.
The country is starting on a journey of change, he said, and the sooner the better to save the environment. “It is real in Kerry just as in any other area,” said Mr Bruton.
It would be “contemptible” for Ireland to sit on its hands and do little while arguing poorer countries such as India do more, he replied.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan hit out at Mr Bruton over the lack of initiatives for public transport in the action plan. More planning for car sharing could significantly reduce the need for electric cars, he predicted.
Turning “drivers from diesel and petrol to electric was not enough”, he argued.
The plan overall lacks any vision for roads, with areas already facing gridlock, said Mr Ryan. Mr Bruton said the Government is open to ideas such as car sharing.
He also outlined how communities could apply for grants when funds are put forward for the action plan.
Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley and others warned that parts of the plan lack detail.
Meanwhile, the Fine Gael parliamentary party debated the plan last night, with ministers outlining opinions on their respective departments. It is understood that Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said the plan would be challenging, while other members said incentives would be needed before penalties for consumers.