A knee-jerk response on climate change will cause hardship in rural Ireland




One has to be very careful when writing or saying anything about climate change these days. That serious action must be taken all over the world to try to halt the damage being done to the environment is not in any doubt. But, looking at the big demonstrations involving young people all over the world last weekend, you sense that our politicians are very likely to fall into the trap of reacting in a knee-jerk manner. That reaction, largely because they want to be seen to be on the ‘Green’ bandwagon, will adversely affect many ordinary people.

  The Budget is in two weeks’ time and the certainty is that there will be substantial increases in carbon taxes, which will affect rural people in particular. Big increases in the price of petrol and diesel, home heating oil, and coal and briquettes, will make Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister Paschal Donohoe popular with the climate change brigade, but it will be a further massive blow to rural Ireland and the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on their cars and vans to get to work every day. What happens if we have a severe winter and people cannot afford to heat their homes? It’s not an outlandish prospect.

  Leo Varadkar – and most of his ministers – are mighty for the bandwagon. They love to be seen supporting whatever is the latest fad, and the climate change movement is certainly that. What we need is leadership, not populism. If rural people are fleeced with carbon taxes, it will be the expensive price we will have to pay to keep up with the Jones’. But remember, there will be an election next year and people may show that they have long memories if the Government go to town with carbon taxes.

  There are other things that the Government could do to raise taxes to pay for the fight against climate change. A levy on air travel is the first obvious one. Taxing the huge global corporations that make massive profits here, while paying hardly any taxes, is another way of raising finance. I’m sure there are other creative ways of getting people to reduce their carbon footprint too.

  I made enquiries about an electric car recently. The salesperson told me the car would have a range of about 320 km. However, that would be on a flat road with no heater on and if driving at 80 km per hour. I asked him what about driving on a day in mid-December – when it’s dark at half-past three – and when it might be snowing outside, requiring the heater, the lights and the wipers to be on. “That would reduce the range considerably” was the answer. Enough said.

  I admire Greta Thunberg and the young people who have taken up the baton on climate change. There is no doubt that we have to act fast to save our planet. We have to play our part here in Ireland too. But the reality is that if we here in this country didn’t light a fire or put on a heating system, drive a car or lorry, or use any kind of fuel at all from 12 midnight on January the 1st, by the time January the 3rd came, the emissions from China would have made up for the emissions that we’d have saved. That’s the scale of the problem we face. Pressure has got to be put on the likes of the USA, China and others, or our efforts will be a mere drop in the ocean.

  When Minister Paschal Donohoe puts 7 or 10 cent on a litre of diesel so that our Government can be seen to be ‘doing the right thing’, just think of Donald Trump sitting in the White House or the Chinese leaders sitting in Beijing, and know that they couldn’t care less. That is the blunt reality, and that’s our biggest problem in relation to this issue.