Social Democrats TD for Wicklow, Jennifer Whitmore, has said that the speedy implementation of green infrastructure projects announced in Budget 2021 will be key to delivering on our climate action ambitions.

Deputy Whitmore, the party’s spokesperson for Climate Action and Biodiversity, said:

“Today’s budget promised investment in retrofitting, EV infrastructure and energy efficiency programmes. While this is welcome, it is important that these measures are implemented with a sense of urgency. Previous roll outs of green infrastructure have been slow. We cannot allow that to happen any longer – we simply do not have the time.

“For example, the Government’s roll out of Smart Meters, which are an important tool in reducing carbon emissions, has been extremely slow. One year on and only 150,000 electricity meters have been installed since ESB Networks commenced the replacement of over two million electricity meters.

“The same goes for retrofitting. The Programme for Government and the Climate Action Plan set ambitious targets to retrofit 500,000 homes to a Building Energy Rating of B2. However, to date only 19% of housing stock in the country has been upgraded under various Government schemes since 2015.

“On the issue of EV infrastructure, a slow uptake by local authorities has seen none of the 1,000 extra public charging points for electric vehicles materialise, despite being announced by the Government more than a year ago.

“This is unfortunate as other countries have invested in the charging infrastructure first to encourage the purchase of electric vehicles. In Ireland, the Government has instead put the cart before the horse. I am waiting to see if further measures in Budget 2021 will do anything to alleviate these issues.

“I also think that now is the time for the Government to address its failure to show by example. Figures from my Parliamentary Questions show that electric cars make up just 1% of State vehicles, despite the commitment to ban diesel and petrol cars by 2030. How can the Government encourage people to purchase EVs if they have not done so themselves?

“Establishing green infrastructure is vital in reducing our carbon footprint as we go about our daily lives. But one thing that will be central to its success is having a just transition plan so that no one is left behind as we develop low carbon infrastructure.

“Budget 2021 did not incorporate funding initiatives to develop a just transition plan which means we have yet to see the real financial impact these climate policies will have on people with low incomes.

“We must also remember that a lot of people out there still find EVs unaffordable. Furthermore, the hike in carbon tax and tax on noxious particles found mostly in older cars will certainly hit people who are financially struggling the hardest.

“A just transition would ensure that any new climate action policy and associated funding does not disenfranchise a certain section of society. We need to be able to bring everyone with us as we transition to a low carbon economy. However, I am concerned that Budget 2021 did not incorporate the necessary just transition principles.”

October 14, 2020

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