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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

OPINION: The new government’s climate programme is full of great intentions, but it appears shockingly planned out

The formation of a new government between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens is an historic one, not least because it is likely to have the most radical climate change policy of any Irish government in the history of the state.

A radical climate policy is what we need, not only in Ireland but around the globe. Finite resources are dwindling and climate change is still accelerating, for now however, the most we can do is focus on our national effort.

Is the new programme for government a step in the right direction? Or is it likely to cripple large swathes of the population?

The programme promises large scale electrification of the transport sector, with electric scooters, bikes and electric public transport all being made available. They have coupled this plan with a ban on registration of all new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, which includes a ban on the importation of second hand petrol and diesel vehicles.

All of this is well and good for the environment, but it also means a reliance upon either old cars with potentially high emissions, or on the purchasing of electric cars, the most of which are quite expensive and will have to be bought new, making them a non-viable option for large amounts of the population.

On top of this, the vast majority of Ireland’s electricity is produced in plants that burn fossil fuels. An increase in the use of electricity therefore means an increase in the amount of fossil fuels being consumed by these plants, which seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it?

Granted the programme does state that there will be “a major drive to realise the immense potential of Ireland’s offshore renewables”. Again, this is an excellent idea, but either I’m missing something or this is a very vague plan.

There has also been plans to end new licensing for excavation and exploration of gas “on the same basis as the recent decision in relation to oil exploration and extraction.” Excellent, but won’t we still need gas to heat our homes? Well the government’s solution to this question is that they are going to retrofit over 500,000 homes to a B2 rating by 2030.

This is an excellent idea, but how are they going to pay for it? Well, we’re going to pay for it. If you retrofit your house, you get to pay for the cost through your utility bill. I understand that work like this is necessary, but some of us simply cannot afford to add extra costs to our lives.

The simple fact of the matter is, a lot of us will have to continue using gas and oil, but it will have to be transported in, making it more expensive.

Forward thinking when it comes to the climate is necessary and so many of us are in favour of it, but this new programme honestly seems poorly thought out. I understand that I am on the outside looking in at these policy formations and discussions, and I understand that I don’t fully comprehend the full scale of this new programme.

But I can’t help but worry that it is glossing over the fact that everyday people do sometimes struggle economically, and these new measures are forgetting that.

I am all in favour of environmental reform, in fact I openly encourage it, but we can’t forget about the economic impact on the everyday Irishman and woman. We need climate reform, but we need it it in such a way that it does not economically cripple us.

Maybe there is a secure backstop that I’ve missed in this programme that ensures we don’t all end up flat broke, and I hope there is because the intentions behind it are pure, but I’m not overly confident that they’ve thought that far ahead.

-Daniel Potter


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