By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
The Government’s response to the climate emergency has been characterised by delay and inadequacy, Labour leader Ivana Bacik has said.
During leaders’ questions in the Dail, Ms Bacik described a UN report into climate change as “chilling” and challenged Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Ireland’s reliance on imported gas.
Mr Martin said that all parties needed to work together to tackle emissions and described the UN report was a “stark warning to all governments”.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this week warned that immediate action is needed to curb dangerous climate change and called for an end to the fossil fuel age.
Referring to the report, Ms Bacik said: “Time is running out to save our planet and to ensure the future of humanity.
“What I believe is that the government response to the climate emergency has unfortunately been characterised by too many delays and by an inadequacy of governance.
“Indeed by a failure to address the clear interconnection between the climate crisis, the energy security crisis exacerbated by the horrific war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis that is biting so deep into so many households across our communities.”
She added: “I raised with you last week concerns that we have about over reliance on imported gas, because this will only worsen if we proceed to build eight new gas-fired electricity plants by 2024.
“Particularly when we have no clarity as to where the gas to power them will come from.
“So what we urgently need to see are dramatic reductions in fossil fuel reliance, rapid increases in our renewable capacity and usage and rapid moves to electrification of heat and transport in other sectors along with drastic action on retrofitting and active travel infrastructure and a national green hydrogen strategy.
“If we don’t take these urgent actions we know from the IPCC that the consequences will be catastrophic, and that the chance to avoid the worst impact of the climate crisis will be lost.
“This is an immediate and critical issue for us here in Ireland.”
The Labour leader continued: “So I’m asking if you can confirm the establishment immediately of a Just Transition Commission to manage our transition to a decarbonised future, which does not adversely impact on those who are most severely affected by the cost of living crisis and the energy security crisis and indeed, by the enormous hikes we’ve seen in energy bills for so many in recent in recent weeks.”
Mr Martin said: “Yesterday’s IPCC report is a stark warning to all governments and to all parliaments about the impossibility of putting this to one side, of deferring action.
“We need honest debate about these things and not always falling back to what’s politically convenient in the short term because short term political convenience will not save the planet.
“If we’re sincere about climate change, and I’m open to working with all parties in the house on climate change, because it is existential, then the least we can do as a parliament is to make sure that the generations coming after us, that we give them some chance, some chance of a quality of life, because what awaits them is truly horrendous if we keep on in denial.”
The Taoiseach added: “Now in respect of the Just Transition Commission, yes, we will be establishing a Just Transition Commission.
“Minister Eamon Ryan is extending the current Just Transmission Commissioner Kieran Mulvey to the end of the year and the full commission will be established.”