Today (Monday) I attended a special Cabinet Meeting at Government Buildings on the Climate Action Plan. This cross-departmental and cross-agency plan is an ambitious and comprehensive plan that sets out how we can manage the transition to a low carbon economy and society in a responsible and realistic way. It contains over 180 actions with specific points of responsibility as well as deadlines.
In Galway, Mayo and the West, and across Ireland, we have directly experienced the impacts of climate breakdown including severe storms, flooding, droughts, extreme snowfall and other related events. Other nations have experienced even more severe events and it has been clear for some time that a comprehensive, inclusive and robust plan involving every sector and community is needed.
Addressing the climate challenge involves every home, every business, every farm and every community. It involves every sector from energy and waste management to transport and telecommunications to construction and agriculture to business and the public sector.
The Climate Action Plan which has been guided by my colleague, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton TD, closely follows the recommendations of the All Party Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change. The Plan emulates the Action Plan for Jobs which has been highly successful in driving down unemployment and creating new jobs over the last seven years.
Among the key actions of the Plan are:
- Increasing renewable sources of energy from 30% to at least 70% which will involve closing peat and coal-powered electricity plants;
- Introducing an accessible micro-generation support scheme which will include sources such as wind and solar;
- Introducing higher standards for new buildings and refurbishment projects;
- Supporting householders to retrofit homes by grouping houses/streets/townlands together into larger projects and providing long-term, low cost financial support;
- Accelerating the take-up of electric vehicles with enhanced and expanded charging infrastructure;
- Converting the public transport fleet to zero-carbon vehicles;
- Supporting remote and home-working to reduce the need to commute;
- Supporting businesses by setting up stakeholder working groups for different sectors that will identify how to decarbonise each sector in a timely, sustainable manner;
- Helping agriculture to adapt through research and development with the introduction of new technologies and farming practices while also ensuring food security;
- Prioritising research funding to encourage the development of practices, processes and technologies that help with the transition.
Central to the success of this vital Plan is governance. A new Climate Action Delivery Board will be established in the Department of the Taoiseach with quarterly progress reports for Government. In addition, there will be an Independent Climate Action Council that will evaluate actions and make budget recommendations.
The Government will introduce three five-year Carbon budgets with targets for each sector accompanied by detailed action plans and Government decisions will be carbon-proofed. The cost of measures will be more than off-set by the benefits to our society and our environment over time.
This Climate Action Plan is ambitious and its implementation will be challenging. All sections of society will be impacted and everyone will have to act so that together we can tackle climate breakdown and project not just the environment but also our prosperity.