In those cases at least we put up a fight, but we have scored a major own goal on the environment, being ranked the worst performer in Europe for tacking climate change.
It is all a long way from December 2015 when Ireland, along with 196 other countries, signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, better known as the Paris Agreement. The then environment minister Alan Kelly signed the deal on behalf of Ireland in New York, saying it represented a “major milestone” in the collective response to the impacts of climate change.
“The Paris Agreement echoes Ireland’s resolve, underpinned by my enactment last December of Ireland’s first ever climate change legislation, the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, to continue the process of pursuing a transition to a low carbon and climate resilient economy,” he said. Fine words. The pity of it is that they were not followed by fine action. Our reputation as the Emerald Isle of “green” economies lies in tatters.
On assuming office, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar vowed to make action on climate change a priority of his tenure. If he is serious about that, the time to act is now.
The Green Party has concentrated on the extent to which Ireland has been disgraced internationally. Party leader Eamon Ryan TD said: “The ranking of Ireland as the worst- performing European country when it comes to climate action brings shame to our country.”
That may be true to a certain extent but guilt-tripping by the Greens misses the point: we need immediate and effective action on climate change not because failure to do so brings us shame or breaches international agreements but because it is a down payment made on behalf of future generations.
We need to look at investment in renewable energy sources as a deposit against future withdrawals. At the same time, we need to cast a cold eye on certain technologies like wind energy, currently being touted as the holy grail of sustainable energy production.
According to the lobbying group Wind Aware Ireland, Irish consumers and the State are spending approximately €1.2bn per year on wind energy, reflecting, it argues, an unsustainable policy that will do little to combat climate change.
Simply converting Moneypoint power station to gas would save more CO2 than all wind turbines currently constructed, according to Wind Aware.
We also need to question the methodology used in the Climate Change Performance Index. It puts Norway among the top of the pile in terms of renewable energy. Indeed, more than 99% of electricity production in mainland Norway is from hydropower plants.
But that ignores the fact that Norway is one of the major contributors to global pollution, gaining huge wealth for decades by producing more than 4m barrels of oil a day.