Thomas Pringle TD

Goverment Climate Plan: Pringle calls for less ‘nudging’ and more movement on public transport and services

Pringle calls on government to stop nudging and start moving: invest in public transport commitments of Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action


18th June 2019

Thomas Pringle TD, Independent TD for Donegal has cautiously welcomed the government’s Climate Action Plan launched yesterday. The government launch follows the  publication of the landmark Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action report in March, to which Thomas Pringle made key contributions, including the recommendation to adopt a 70% renewable electricity target for 2030, an integrated rural public transport network, and investment in serviced sites on vacant land in towns and villages for affordable and social housing.

Reacting to the Fine Gael plan, Pringle said

“it is about time we saw a serious attempt to coordinate climate action from government. Communities and NGOs have been clamouring for government action and investment for nearly 20 years. It is only because Ireland is now facing EU fines of up to €7bn by 2030 that we are finally seeing the Minister step up to the challenge.  Just to put that in perspective, that’s Broadband for everyone in rural Ireland twice over.

“Instead of investing in health or public transport, the government will be asking US – Irish citizens and taxpayers – to pay these fines and will continue to do so unless there is a complete transformation of the way Government thinks around climate action and biodiversity by putting people and nature before markets and profits.

“Predictably, the FG plan relies on ‘nudges’ rather than regulation or investment. This means that an opportunity to revitalise rural communities in the North West with state investment in public transport and local green enterprise will be lost. Fine Gael are determined to do climate policy by getting people to change their behaviour with carbon taxes and a range of ‘carrots’ and ‘sticks’. But what we need is investment in public services: public transport links between all our towns and villages; education and training opportunities in sustainable businesses; reskilling coastal communities for offshore wind deployment; and a programme to connect retrofitting programmes in rural areas to upskilling under-employed sectors of the labour market.”

“In terms of Carbon Tax this plan is written with urban FG voters in mind, the impacts on rural households could be significant unless there is a step change in government policy towards providing better public services instead of higher taxes to punish rural dwellers. In the JOCCA process I argued that revenues from any increases in the carbon tax should directly compensate low-income and isolated rural communities who will not be in a position to shift easily to low-carbon alternatives. The current consultation on carbon tax revenues being undertaken by the Department of Finance is welcome. But it gives no guarantees that vulnerable households will be protected and compensated.’

“On offshore wind, it is welcome to see the commitment to getting offshore wind farms up and running by 2023. However significant grid infrastructure will be required to facilitate offshore wind energy on the West coast, where there is huge potential and many skilled workers.

“I call on the government to develop an offshore wind energy strategy for the West coast so that the grid infrastructure required is made clear to the public in advance, and all options for transmitting the electricity by DC cable and through pumped storage are explored.’

“It is so disappointing but entirely predictable that FG have chosen solutions that depend on private capital investment in new technologies, rather than a reimagining connecting rural towns and villages by public transport. What about people who can’t afford a new car, or who depend on public transport or active modes? We could have greenways all along the West coast, developing new sustainable tourism businesses. There is so much job creation potential in public transportation, compared with the loss to Irish GDP when our money leaves the economy to pay for auto manufacturers in France, Sweden or Germany.

“Finally, as a champion of fossil fuel divestment, it is worrying to see that there is coded reference the highly speculative emission removal technologies Carbon Catpure and Storage (CCS) and Bioenergy CCS (BECCS) to the SFI’s support for innovative decarbonisation solutions. I call for an end to all further licensing of offshore oil and gas exploration, and funding for research into fossil fuel extraction and CCS via the SFI” concludes Pringle.