The government is talking out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to its commitments on climate change, according to Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore. Deputy Whitmore was speaking on the new Climate Action Bill which reached second stage in the Dáil this week.
“There are major shortcomings in the legislation, which is being debated by the Dáil [today]. The myth propagated by the Minister, that this Bill will be the most ambitious in the world in terms of cutting carbon emissions, must be dispelled. Denmark has set a 70pc target of emissions reductions by 2030 in legislation while the UK has committed to putting in place a 78pc target by 2035.
“We are no longer ambitious. In fact, we are behind the curb on this. A target of net zero emissions by 2050 is simply too late, out of step with the scientific advice and far short of our fair share of the global effort needed to deliver on the Paris Agreement. This must be the floor, not the ceiling of our ambition.
“The implications for County Wicklow if the Government does not match our climate action ambitions with actions on the ground would be huge.
“Arklow, recently designated to be Wicklow’s first decarbonisation zone, will require huge amounts of financial support and resources to transition. Government must immediately ensure this funding is available to Wicklow County Council so that the decarbonisation process can be rolled out across Wicklow as quickly as possible to meet our 2030 targets.
“This will be crucial in establishing a just transition model that can be applied to rural parts of Wicklow and disadvantaged areas.
“We also need to see resources at county level to engage in large-scale afforestation initiatives, funding to protect our local biodiversity particularly in our national parks and in our marine waters, and we also need resources to design and implement a local authority Climate Action Plan which will be required as a result of this legislation being passed. However, the Minister has not indicated where this funding will come from and when it will be made available.
“Huge amounts of funding will be required to put in place a more integrated public transport network to reduce car dependency and increase rail links between our towns south of Greystones. I have been pushing for greater Local Links with the NTA and believe this will be fundamental to a just transition as all areas are serviced with transport links and improved train services to Wicklow Town and Arklow.
“The covid crisis has taught us the havoc that can be wreaked when a natural disaster overwhelms the State. We have a final opportunity now to insulate ourselves from the worst impacts of the climate crisis, but we need to act now. Time is running out” concludes Whitmore.