Fianna Fail - Fine Gael climate action plan an historic turning point
1 Apr 2016
Backroom deal for a solar revolution, a ban on fracking, closing the peat plants and an SSIA scheme for retro-fitting
Friends of the Earth has welcomed the news that Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have agreed an ambitious plan to cut Ireland's carbon emissions. The 5-year climate action plan is being seen as a vital plank of any deal on the formation of a new government.
A source close to the backroom talks that drafted the plan was quoted as saying:
"We all know that climate change is one of the biggest challenges the next Government will face. The Paris Agreement has really uped the ante for countries to be seen to be making an effort to cut their emissions. With the US and China now leading the way the excuses for other countries are now falling away. One of the first overseas engagements of the next Taoiseach will be to sign the Paris Agreement with 120 other world leaders in New York on 22nd April. And right after that the serious negotiations begin with the EU about our 2030 target to be agreed this summer. We decided we'd better have a plan, and best to do it now when everything is on the table"
It is understood that the plan centres on two eye-catching initiatives: A "rooftop revolution" in solar electricity and an SSIA-type scheme for investing in warmer homes. According to the plan, within a 100 days the new Government would introduce a guaranteed payment for solar electricity and a special savings scheme which the state would top up with 1 euro for every 4 euro deposited by the saver. The money could be spent on the deposit for a new home by first time buyers or by anybody for retrofitting an existing home to save energy.
The source continued:
"We need to reset the debate on renewables and not just be talking about wind all the time. The cost of solar energy is plummeting thanks to the Germans and the Chinese and it offers a real chance to get everyone involved in the energy transition. If we set a fair price for solar electricity then you could see GAA clubs, schools, parish halls all becoming community-owned power plants and bringing a steady revenue stream to rural communities in particular.
The plan also confirms that the burning of peat for electricity will end in 2019 and proposes an inter-agency task-force, including the IDA and Enterprise ireland, be set up now to look at job creation in the affected areas. Money currently used to subsidize peat-burning will be diverted into supporting development in the midlands. The new Government will also impose an indefinite moratorium on fracking, the controversial drilling technique to extract unconventional shale gas.There are no radical measures concerning agricultural emissions, although more resources are promised for Teagasc's research and farm support work.The source added:
"We still need to do a deal with the EU to be allowed to offset our agricultural emissions as there's no easy way to reduce them in the short term. But we've concluded that we stand the best chance of getting that deal if we are seen to be doing everything we can in other areas to grasp the opportunities to reduce emissions. Ireland has developed the reputation as a bit of a whinger on climate policy inside the EU over the last 5 years and it isn't actually doing our cause any good."
For more information on this story contact Friends of the Earth by noon today April 1st, as it likely to go out of date after that.