Slapping countries with fines for missing climate change targets does not work and only creates a sense of "doom" the Taoiseach says.
Speaking in Brussels after EU leaders failed to agree on new carbon targets, Leo Varadkar said we now need to change the way we talk about climate measures: "Too often we talk about climate action in the context of meeting European or international targets and if we don't meet those targets we will face fines and I don't think that's the right way to think about it."
Climate Action Minister Richard Burton has already confirmed that Ireland will have to pay up to €150m in carbon credits to make up for failing to meet out 2020 targets.
There was intense debate among European leaders at the two-day summit as Hungry, the Czech Republic and Poland refused to sign up to a commitment to zero-carbon by 2050.
A discussion on the issue went on for two hours longer than expected but leaders were still unable to reach agreement.
Leaders were also unable to sign off on a number of top EU jobs including the presidents of the Commission and Council.
EU leaders finished Day 2 of their meeting #EUCO with a Euro Summit where they discussed #EMU strengthening. @eucopresident also thanked @KlausIohannis for his work during the Romanian Council Presidency @ro2019eu pic.twitter.com/lQnijP3xr2— EU Council (@EUCouncil) June 21, 2019
They will meet again on June 30 in a bid to fill the positions.
After the meeting, Mr Varadkar said: "What we haven't been able to agree on it yet is this concept of achieving carbon neutrality or climate neutrality by 2050 but we are totally signed up to the Paris accords and totally signed up tp the commitments for 2030."
He said adopting climate-focused policies will actually improve economies and they should be looked at as an opportunity: "Climate action is actually good policy, it's good environmental policy, it's good social policy, it's good economic policy, it's about reducing greenhouse gas emissions so that we stabilise our climate which is really important for the future.
"It's also about creating the new jobs and new businesses of the future and there are huge opportunities there.
"A lot of us are trying to bring around the thinking when it comes to climate action away from targets and fines to avoid doom to actually looking at the opportunity that exists to build a better society and economy."
Separately, Mr Varadkar said the Government will press ahead with bringing in minimum unit alcohol pricing following the introduction of similar laws in Scotland: "It does seem to be working, consumption is falling and we’ll obviously press ahead with implementing our Public Health Alcohol legislation."