Manifesto Watch: Green Party on climate and biodiversity
February 6th, 2020
After a year of climate school strikes and civil disobedience, the Green Party has seen a notable spike in support.
The party has its roots in environmental issues, and saw its positions on climate reap electoral benefit last year with gains in local and European elections that were soon dubbed The Green Wave.
It is calling for a seven per cent emission reduction per year closely in line with what the UN is calling for and considerably higher than the two per cent per annum reduction outlined in the Climate Action Plan.
The Greens also aim to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2040, a full decade ahead of most other parties’ target (People Before Profit, together with Solidarity and Rise aim to hit this target sooner).
If in Government, the Greens pledge to end the issuing of oil and gas exploration and extraction licences and say they will stand “firmly” against the importation of fracked gas.
The position is a stark contrast to Fine Gael, who have continued to support liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals that would likely see fracked gas in ported into Ireland from the US.
The across-the-board position is also notably different from Fianna Fail, who have offered mixed messages on whether the party will support the Shannon LNG project.
The Greens also want to halt the burning of peat for electricity generation and pledge to prevent the resumption of industrial peat extraction in line with a High Court ruling on the matter.
In order to develop renewable energy, the Greens want to oversee the development of five gigawatts of offshore wind in Irish waters by 2030, 1.5 gigawatts more than Fine Gael’s offshore wind proposal.
Fianna Fail said they would “drive forward rapid development and deployment” of offshore wind, but did not specify how in their manifesto.
For Ireland’s largest emitting sector, the Greens have adopted an overarching strategy of rewarding farmers for carbon sequestration, biodiversity restoration and clean energy production. These changes, the party believes, should be brought through reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
In order to oversee a transition to a greener agricultural sector, the Greens would establish an Energy Efficient Farming Scheme to include a farm efficiency rating overseen by the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland.
A government-led task force would also be established for farming and biodiversity, which the party says would include representation from “all relevant stakeholders”.
On the matter of a national herd reduction, while not explicitly mentioned in the manifesto, Party Leader Eamon Ryan has called for a smaller suckler herd in order to veer farmers away from an intensive model of agriculture. The party has been careful to not explicitly outline a reduction target unlike People Before Profit and some other parties on the left.
The party want to see at least 20,000 hectares of forest planted per year until at least the end of the decade, a considerably higher target than Fine Gael’s target of 8,000 hectares of new forest per year.
The Greens would also want to see a shift away from monoculture sitka spruce species and instead would opt for “mixed, diverse forestry”.
In order to assist in such large-scale planting, the party wants to pay farmers farmers to plant trees on at least one hectare of their land.
Carbon capture strategies proposed by the Greens also contain some key elements of their biodiversity strategy, namely bog restoration, forestry and marine protection.
Rewetting and rewilding of peatlands, the party document says, can serve as a protection to insect and bird life and increased forest cover would also ensure greater biodiversity for forest-dwelling species.
The party would also designate half of Irish waters as Marine Protected Areas to protect marine species and allow for a “sequestration of carbon in deep waters”.
In their biodiversity and climate crisis chapter, the Greens spell out a number of measures they would take on preserving biodiversity, such as tightening restrictions on pesticides and insecticides, protecting hedgerows and funding the National Pollinator Plan, however the manifesto does not flesh out how specifically the party would go about doing it.
One of the sectors the Green Party is consistently vocal on is transport, and the party has made it no secret that if in government it would put it through a serious overhaul, calling for a 2:1 funding split in favour of public transport over road building and maintenance.
The party would pursue better rural transport and a one-tag-on system for multi-leg journeys made on public transport in order to incentivize commuters. The Greens want to see free transport for students and a capped fare system for other users until the public transport infrastructure is upgraded to meet demand before contemplating scrapping fares for all.
The Greens would also like to see a financial rejig of the capital budget to favour walking and cycling, allocating 10 per cent of the budget to both.
The party is also very strong on policy to place pedestrians at the forefront of the transport model in towns and cities, including better road crossing options and footpath infrastructure.
Carbon Tax & Housing
Compared to its Fianna Fail and Fine Gael counterparts, the Greens are proposing an increase in the end-of-decade carbon tax target. While the aforementioned two larger parties are aiming for a €80 per tonne of carbon by 2030, the Green Party is seeking a €100 per tonne tax.
The Greens want to ring-fence the funds to go back to citizens via increased social welfare payments and tax credits. This is in line with ESRI recommendations to ensure that poorer and more rural communities are protected from any potential financial hardship associated with the tax.
The Greens would also introduce a flight tax if elected, and would “work towards” a tax on global aviation and shipping. Additionally, the party would also seek a total elimination of government subsidies to fossil fuels, which are currently valued at €2.5 billion.
Housing policy would also see an attempted overhaul under a Green government, as the party would want a massive retrofitting scheme implemented across the country.
In their manifesto, the party have proposed setting up a 20,000-strong, apprentice-driven retrofitting scheme of public and private that would largely rely on European Investment Bank funds.
Within two years of being elected, the greens also promise to set a mandate for new buildings that would require all of them to be “designed and constructed to zero carbon standard”.
For all prospective buyers and renters, the party would also require buildings to display their energy efficiency rating on signage in an effort to “better inform consumers and increase general public awareness of the energy performance of Irish homes”.
Finally, in response to climate change-driven flooding and storm surges, the party proposes creating “a single Emergency Response Agency” which would see cross-organizational cooperation between local authorities and government departments.
The Greens would also want to “prevent poorly regulated urbanisation” that has led to construction on land vulnerable to flooding in order to avoid further damage.
For day-to-day management of flooding, the party proposes using “ecological measures” to manage river catchment for areas vulnerable to flooding, but did not provide an explicit timeline in their manifesto.
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