Richard Bruton pledges to step up to climate challenge

Published by Niall Sargent on

7th November 2018

Tackling the challenge of climate change will require a “revolution in how we live”, says new Minister for Climate Action and Environment in his maiden speech.

Speaking at the EU Climate-KIC Summit, yesterday, Richard Bruton said that the most pressing action for the State is to set out a clear pathway to transition to a near-zero carbon society to meet our EU and 2015 Paris Agreement commitments.

This will require a revolution in how we heat our homes and businesses, fuel our national grid and public and private transport systems, and the food we produce.

“We must discourage new private or public investments being made now which lock us in to high carbon patterns of living,” Mr Bruton said.

Mr Bruton added that one of his first keys steps in his new role will be to take the lead on developing an “all of government plan” on climate change.

The plan, he said, will set out both the mitigation and adaptation actions required across every government department and body.

An Taisce welcomed this “belated step in the right direction” but cautioned that it may all just be rhetoric based on prior Government decision.

The environmental charity pointed to the failure for the Cabinet to follow through on the Taoiseach’s promise to increase the carbon tax in this year’s budget as a case in point.

While Mr Bruton did commit yesterday to increase carbon taxes between now and 2030, An Taisce stressed that he must hold strong on the promise and not allow such action to “crumble at the first sign of resistance from vested interests”.

An Taisce also called on the Minister to reconsider plans to expand Dublin Airport and to block a proposed gas terminal on the Shannon Estuary, “both of which lock-in high carbon patterns of living for decades”.

“Accelerating the shut-down of the three loss-making peat-fired power stations as well as decommissioning the ESB’s coal-fired Moneypoint plant are other vital steps towards a zero-carbon transition,” the environmental charity said.

“Climate change is without a doubt the gravest threat facing us today. Therefore, Richard Bruton has we believe the most consequential brief of any Cabinet minister.

“An Taisce wishes him every success and is prepared to work with his department in whatever way to aid the ‘revolution’ towards a cleaner, safer future for all.”

Protesters from Stop Climate Chaos Coalition outside Leinster House in Dublin Photo: PHOTOCALL IRELAND

Climate Emergency Bill

Deputy Bríd Smith said that Mr Bruton needs to follow through with more than “platitudes” during his term and “show a real commitment to tackle climate change”.

“We are among the worst performers on reducing our Co2 emission and nothing in current Government policy suggest that this Government has the slightest understanding of how catastrophic climate change is and how limited the timeframe for action is,” she said.

She called on Mr Bruton to support her proposed Climate Emergency Measures Bill to effectively ban the State from issuing any new licenses for offshore oil and gas exploration.

The Minister of State for Natural Resources, Seán Canney, who sits in the same department as Mr Bruton, pledged government support for offshore oil and gas exploration at an industry conference last week.

Ireland is quite unique globally in having its own dedicated petroleum research vehicle, the Petroleum Infrastructure Programme (PIP) that today sits in the Department of Climate Action (DCCAE).

The Programme, now running for 21 years, is largely funded by contributions from oil and gas companies that hold Frontier Exploration Licences.

“The Government recognises that the realisation of Ireland’s offshore oil and gas resource potential can deliver significant benefits to the people of Ireland in terms of security of supply, import substitution and fiscal return,” Mr Canney said.

“In addition, offshore discovery and development has the potential to be a very significant economic driver for Ireland,” he said.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London