October 5, 2021

The Irish Environmental Pillar emphasises the need to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies

The Environmental Pillar (EP) has urged the Government of Ireland to deliver a plan in the upcoming budget to remove over €2 billion in fossil fuel subsidies a year. The EP consists of several Irish environmental NGOs who collaborate to advocate and represent the environmental sector. The EP believe this is an urgent measure that must be tackled to address the climate and biodiversity challenges in Ireland.

In a recent report, the EP explains that the subsidies need eliminating as a matter of urgency. The EP believes taking these steps could generate significant benefits to the climate as the removal would reduce carbon emissions by as much as 20% by 2030 compared to the current scenario. The EP suggests eradicating this practice over the next five years and emphasises the need to incorporate sustainable development into the budget to enhance the resilience of communities.

The existing framework for decision-making lacks a focus on one of the most critical elements of our planet: our biodiversity. We are reliant on nature for our physical and mental health, but the EP believes the existing budget lacks an emphasis on biodiversity.

One focus area is transport, and to support a shift away from the use of cars in urban areas, the EP is backing an accelerated expansion of bike-to-work schemes. Between 1990 to 2020, greenhouse gas emissions from transport grew by over 130%.

The industry represents about 20% of the total national emissions in Ireland. The EP believes that we need to move away from cars as our primary mode of transport for our climate and personal health. The EP has also called for a levy on the aggregates used within the construction sector in order to reduce the use of natural resources and boost the recycling of aggregates.

The EP believes the construction industry needs to transition towards using more sustainable and appropriate materials that provide high-quality housing but have a minimal impact on our environment. The organisation also believes there should be a considerable increase in funding for the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) to tackle the issue of biodiversity loss.

After the impact of the financial crisis in 2008, the NPWS experienced over a 50% decline in funding until last year. The service remains down by nearly 40% compared to 2008 funding levels, according to the EP. Caroline Whyte, a representative of EP, explains that two years ago the Government announced a climate and biodiversity emergency with Ireland being one of the first countries to make this statement. Whyte points out that recent legislation is a welcomed move, but there is yet to be many developments in Government in terms of funding and investment into these vital areas.

Targets and commitments towards these measures are a positive step, but without action and considerable investment, it is unlikely to go far. The plans suggested by the EP are specific areas that can reduce emissions, protect biodiversity and continue to improve our quality of life, as well as generate more jobs.