Majority of Irish public think climate action will be positive

28 October 2021 

Sixty per cent of the Irish public believe the impact of climate action will be positive, according to a newly published opinion poll. 

Carried out by Ireland Thinks and published by Friends of the Earth, the poll also found that 80 per cent of the public back the Government’s plan to cut climate-changing pollution in half by 2030. 

The results should “give backbench Government TDs and indeed all politicians, the confidence to support the action we so desperately need to avoid climate breakdown,” Friends of the Earth Director Oisin Coghlan said. 

“What these results show is that, rather like in polling on Covid-19, solid majorities of the public at large think government action on climate should be a priority, think if anything the Government should do more, and think the overall impact of action to reduce emissions will be positive,” he added. 

In addition to the four-fifths of those polled saying Ireland should cut its emissions by at least 51 per cent by 2030, half of respondents said the country must exceed the target. 

Almost 9 in 10 thought corporations should pay a carbon tax and a majority believe each sector should reduce its pollution by roughly the same amount or just a bit more or less than others. 

How much each sector will reduce its emissions is expected to be “the real battle zone” when it comes implementing newly announced carbon budgets, according to climatologist Professor John Sweeney. 

The Climate Change Advisory Council recommended that Ireland’s total emissions should fall by 4.8 per cent per year from 2021 to 2025 and that their reduction must ramp up to 8.3 per cent between 2026 and 2030. 

“It’s just a case of now sticking with it and having the ability to face down the inevitable consequences that will come from some sectors,” he added. 

Dr. Hannah Daly noted this week on RTE’s News at One that under-delivering on emissions targets in some of the big sectors, such as agriculture, will put “decarbonisation in the energy sector in a much more difficult place and requires much more radical action across all the different sectors.” 

Overplayed “urban-rural divide”

Differences across regions in the polls’ results were “less than might be expected”, according to Friends of the Earth. 

58 per cent of people in Munster and 56 per cent of people in Connacht-Ulster believe the impact of climate action will be “mostly positive”, compared to 60 per cent nationally.

“These findings suggest that the ‘urban-rural divide’ on climate change is overplayed in political and media debates,” Friends of the Earth noted. 

The poll also asked respondents to rank the most important issue facing the country, and housing led the answers followed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Climate and the environment came in fifth place.

Following the Climate Change Advisory Council’s publication of carbon budgets this week, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan is now set to propose a set of carbon budgets to the Oireachtas which will be used to set sectoral emission ceilings. 

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