Climate action plan a “savage attack” on rural Ireland says Fitzmaurice

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The government’s Climate Action Plan published by the government this week has been described as a “savage attack” on rural Ireland by Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

The new Climate Action Plan contains many measures that will affect almost every aspect of the economy and society over the coming decades, and sets ambitious targets meant to combat climate change.

Ultimately it aims to achieve a 20 percent reduction in Ireland’s carbon emissions by 2030, and a completely carbon neutral country by 2050.

That’s a particularly bold statement of intent considering that until now Ireland has been trailing well behind the rest of Europe in fighting cutting carbon emissions.

Many of the measures contained with the plan target transport as a key sector for cutting emissions, and Michael Fitzmaurice said that they put people in rural areas at an “immediate disadvantage”.

“These people, middle Ireland, have to drive to work, they have to drive their kids to school and go about their day-to-day lives without access to sufficient public transport or the proper infrastructure.”

“They are immediately at a disadvantage compared to those living in the larger towns and cities when it comes to this plan.”

Within the plan the government says that it will encourage people to switch away from petrol and diesel cars, and with incentives to put 1,000,000 new electric cars on the road.

It is expected that this will be accompanied by an increase in the target of electric charging points to be rolled out by 2030, which is also the point where a ban will come in on selling new petrol and diesel cars.

“While I am not against them, electric vehicles will not plough fields or bale hay,” Michael Fitzmaurice said.

“The technology hasn’t advanced enough yet to be of practical use for those living in rural Ireland – but they may suit those living in cities who only make short journeys.

“In terms of public transport, I have seen results from an independent study that hybrid and electric buses are not yet ready to replace their diesel counterparts – failing to drive up hills along with frequent reliability issues.”

The Independent TD added that  equalising excise duties on petrol and diesel over time time will have a massive impact on farms.

“If we look at the impact it will have, a farm’s agricultural contracting bill could jump by €500 or €600 per year”.

While Fitzmaurice welcomed some of the measures in principal, he stated that there was a “lack of innovation and originality” in the proposals on improving livestock management, improving nitrogen use, and the better management of peatlands and soils.

He described those measures as “afeterthoughts”, adding that “rural Ireland will be expected to pay the price of urban bliss” when it comes to cutting carbon emissions.