The Green Party can forget its 7% carbon emission reduction demand if it “decimates” farming and rural Ireland, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.
Mr Coveney said he and his party will not tolerate any move which unfairly hurts farmers and rural towns even if it means causing a second general election.
In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr Coveney said bluntly: “I am not going to put farmers out of business.”
Reflecting the deep level of unease in his party about the Green Party’s “red-line” that a 7% reduction in carbon emissions must form part of any programme for government, Mr Coveney said he wants to work with the Greens in government, but commitments made must be realistic.
“Nothing has been ruled out effectively. But, there are some things you simply can’’t say yes to without figuring out how it’’s going to be done,” he said.
But he was adamant he would prefer to have another election than sign up to measures that would jeopardise Irish farmers.
“Well, if it decimates rural Ireland, we’’re not doing it. Okay, let’’s be very clear on that right you know we are not going to sign up to a programme for government decimates rural Ireland. That’’ll never happen. Okay, even if that means another election,” he said.
We will discuss with the Green Party about some of their concerns around agriculture and I think that they understand our perspective and we understand theirs.
Mr Coveney said he and his party are up for a discussion which looks at how the 7% target could be achieved across many sectors including agriculture but reiterated it cannot be about “putting farmers out of business”.
“I am absolutely committed to a, a comprehensive response on climate action. Our current climate action plan which Richard Britain is primarily responsible for putting together commits Ireland to just over 3% per annum reductions,” he said.
“I’’m not ruling out 7%, I’’d love to really interrogate that number and what would be necessary to make it happen to then decide politically cannot be done in a way that we can bring the public with us,” he said.
Mr Coveney made clear that as of now, the Green Party are the favoured coalition partner for him and his party but said their carbon reduction demand needs to fully interrogated as to how the country would get there.
“We can agree to two targets, without actually having a roadmap. And then spend the next number of years, struggling to meet the targets that we set for ourselves, I mean that mistake has been made in the past on emissions,” he said.
“What we’’d like to do with the Green Party is to start a process of a real detailed discussion. If necessary, with the input of experts to look at how far Ireland can go in terms of delivering a significant Climate Action Plan that can reduce our emissions significantly over time,” he said.
“But it’’s got to be based on a plan that is doable, and we need to ensure that that plan doesn’’t impact on, on our capacity to rebuild an economy or capacity to get people back to work in the context of Covid-19,” Mr Coveney added.
The Tánaiste, who led his party’s negotiations with Fianna Fáil, said to be fair to the Green Party, their response to our framework document was a serious one.