November 7 2018
The decisions we make now in tackling climate change will define the next century.
Ireland is far off course to achieve the CO2 targets which we have committed to.
I want to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change, not a follower. That will require a significant step change across government. Being a leader means acting now, stretching ourselves and seizing the enterprise opportunities in a low carbon economy, including the new circular and bioeconomies. Being a follower means the final costs of adjustment are much higher and opportunities much lower or completely lost.
It will require a revolution in how we live. Every person, every community, every business, every home and every school will have to make changes in the way we live and work and learn. Nothing less will do if we are to make the changes that are needed to create a sustainable future for everyone. Given the scale of the challenge, there is a need for a growing political concensus on this. I intend to work with all parties and none, and with the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action.
The National Mitigation Plan was an initial first step to set us on our way to decarbonisation. By its own admission it was not a complete roadmap. We now need to move to undertaking that more detailed mapping of the journey we need to travel will be done.
I will lead on the development of an all of government plan which will set out the actions which must be taken in every government department and body. The central ambition of this plan will be to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. I will be seeking to work with colleagues across government to develop new initiatives across electricity, transport, heat, as well as a range of other sectors.
The focus will be on implementation. We will identify actions with clear timelines and the steps needed to get there, and assign clear lines of responsibility for delivery.
The scope for Government and for public bodies to take the lead is huge –
- By leading by example in its own behaviour and choices
- By enabling the development of infrastructures which facilitate better private choices
- By removing barriers or market failings which help people to make better private choices (access to finance, better information and technical support....)
- By identifying where Ireland has particular opportunities and promoting hubs of innovation and enterprise to develop them
This requires a clear mandate to integrate the demands of climate action into the decision making of all regulatory systems and programme evaluation across government.
Project Ireland 2040, and the ten year National Development Plan which underpins it, is the first time an Irish Government has ever attempted to ensure that future growth is compact, connected, regionally balanced and sustainable.
Implementing this vision, and ensuring that the capital investments which are made, deliver that integrated vision will be a crucial challenge which we must crack. How we roll out this €116 billion investment [and in particular the €30 billion on Climate Action and Sustainable Transport] can create a profound shift in behaviour patterns.
Price matters when it comes to choices. We must discourage new private or public investments being made now which lock us in to high carbon patterns of living.
Increasing Carbon taxes will have a strong role to play and I believe that we need to set a trajectory for increasing carbon taxes between now and 2030. It is important that people have this certainty.
There are other pricing opportunities which need to be explored. Smart use of pricing can encourage easy changes in behaviour quickly, whether it be ride sharing, night time appliance use or simply more resource conscious choices.
Innovation can be a very powerful tool in tackling intractable problems, as history has proven over and over again. We have launched:
- Climate Action Fund (€500M) inviting applications in a competitive process from projects generating significant CO2 reduction in innovative and cost effective ways capable of being scaled up.
- Disruptive Technology Fund (€500M) inviting applications in a competitive process from projects collaborative enterprise driven partnerships which will develop, deploy and commercialise disruptive technologies in areas where Ireland can establish a competitive advantage including smart and sustainable food production and processing and decarbonising the energy system.
Hopefully they will encourage creative minds and creative enterprises to tackle this global challenge and also build partnerships internationally.
The challenge goes well beyond the landscape well understood by economics and so the policies will also have to stretch well beyond the tools of economics. Building a community sense of purpose around the global challenge will demand new thinking from policy makers
In seeking to develop new approaches, I will be looking at other countries to see what has worked well, and how it could be adapted and implemented here.
I believe that the time is right now for the type of deliberate and determined action to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. I believe that the Action Plan for Jobs provides a good template. The Action Plan for Jobs was monitored, measured and delivered, and was driven by a high level implementation group which included the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the Taoiseach's Office and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.