Independent TD, Sean Canney, has said Ireland is “putting the cart before the horse” in its attempt to combat climate change.
The Galway-East representative spoke during a Dáil debate on the Climate Action Bill yesterday (Wednesday, April 21st).
In his opening address, he said: “Agriculture is being unfairly categorised in the climate action agenda.”
“We are best in class for dairy production in Europe, and we are fifth in class for beef production. Why then are we saying that farmers are adding to the carbon footprint when in fact, they are exemplars in what they do?”
“The farmer is the custodian of the land and knows it better than anybody else. Farmers know the land is a source of food. If we reduce herd numbers, we will also reduce beef and dairy production. The alternative is to bring in beef from South America, and one could ask what that adds to the carbon footprint.”
He said another way Ireland has put the cart before the horse is that it has stopped the production of peat briquettes and is now importing them.
Additionally, he pointed out that the country has stalled milled peat production for horticulture and is now importing this product.
“We are now stopping farmers from increasing production. What will they do then? We have also introduced a retrofit programme for houses, but when a person with a fuel allowance applies for it, he or she must wait two years for an inspection,” Sean Canney added.
He said there is discussion surrounding electric cars coming on-stream but he believes Ireland must look at how much it will cost people to replace their current vehicle with a new electric car.
He stressed the infrastructure for electric cars is still very weak, with charging points “here and there”. “There are not sufficient charging points across the country to give people the confidence they would expect in using an electric car.”
“People are being told to take out their stoves and oil-fired heating systems and to put in electric-source heating systems. The cost of making such a change ranges from €15,000 to €25,000, and a grant of €3,500 is available.”
“Where are people going to get the money to do this? A better question still is where is the government going to get the money to do this?” he asked.
‘Not planning properly for what we need to do’
Concluding, he said the government make sure that nobody is penalised through the climate action movement that the country has to undertake.
“We need to make sure that whatever efforts are required are put in place and are up and running before we stop something else.”
“It would be a crazy situation if we decided not to burn any more turf or peat in our fires if the houses, which now rely on that do, not have an alternative in place or cannot afford to change.”
“I am very concerned that we are in a zone whereby we are tripping over ourselves and are not planning properly for what we need to do and making sure that whatever we do is of benefit to the people,” deputy Sean Canny concluded.