On Sunday I launched our proposals for a Green Economy that will deliver thousands of new jobs and decarbonise our society. In the last DĂˇil, protecting our environment andÂ passing a climate change bill was one of my biggest priorities. The next challenge is to promote sustainable growth but also protect our communities from the risk of floods as our climate changes.Â Labour has a proven record of standing up for the environment and delivering jobs.Â The lesson from the last five years is if you want green policies to be implemented in Government you have to vote for the Labour Party.
When I sat on the Environment committee I proposed a Climate Change Advisory Council during the pre-legislative scrutiny period, which was then included in the Bill and recently set up. A key function of the Council, which is chaired by Professor John FitzGerald, is to provide independent advice, and make recommendations, to Government and Ministers in relation to the low carbon transition process and the climate adaptation agenda as Ireland transitions to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy and society by 2050. Irrespective of whoever forms the next Government they will have to bring in sectoral adaptation plans in each Department to meet ambitious targets.
The full details of our plans are included in the policy document below but some of our proposals are to:
1. Establish aÂ green infrastructure fund worth â‚¬1 billion.Â We recognise the need to fund immediate action on climate change. We will use â‚¬500 million from the planned sale of 25% of AIB shares to establish this fund.Â This money will be matched by private funding and will operate under the Irish Strategic Investment Fund.
2. Expand the better energy warmer homes scheme to retrofit 225,000 homes over the next five years. This will create 13,000 new jobs, save â‚¬39m in annual household energy bills and reduce carbon emissions by 137 kilotonnes.
- A first step will be to further target energy poverty and in particular those suffering acute health conditions and living in poorly insulated homes. Housing association tenants will be eligible for the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme and landlords participating in the Housing Assistance Payment schemes will receive free energy efficiency upgrades
- In total, 215,000 homes will be able to access grant aided support to retrofit and improve the energy efficiency of their houses over the next five years
- A further 10,000 homes will be able to access funding for deep retrofitting measures through the Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme, to ensure that those living in the oldest and least modern houses can experience a better quality of living.
- Rented homes are twice as likely to have a poor BER rating. We will support landlords participating in the Housing Assistance Payment schemes to upgrade their rental properties and for other landlords, we will extend 100% mortgage interest relief to landlords to ensure properties meet a minimum BER rating.
3. Deliver greener public transport systems and stronger promotion for cycling. Changing the ways we travel will be essential to meeting our climate change commitments. We will continue to strengthen incentives to take up cycling and establish a Green Bus Fund to replace the state fleet with cleaner, more cost-effective vehicles.
- We will also publish a new Rail Transport Strategy to improve the reliability and energy efficiency of our rail network.
- We will review the capital spending plan by the end of 2016 and bring forward if possible, the start of work on the Metro North project.
- We will improve the incentives for electric and hybrid car ownership by increasing the grants to purchasers.
- We will fund the roll out of a city cycle-way system, starting with Dublin, while also supporting investment in cycle-ways in other areas across the country.
- We will build on the hugely successful Cycle to Work scheme with a new Cycle to School Scheme. This will make it easier and more affordable than ever for school-age children to get active on a daily basis.
4. Promote and diversify Irelandâ€™s renewable energy portfolio. Labour will support public investment and leadership in research,development and deployment of additional clean energy sources and new green technologies.
- Moneypoint, Irelandâ€™s only coal burning electricity generating station is a critical contributor to energy supply in this country. Consistent with our climate change commitments we will seek to replace high-carbon emitting coal with the most suitable replacement low-carbon technology as the plant comes to the end of its current operational life in 2025.
- We will develop a world-leading renewable energy research centre which will bring together all the renewable energy research institutes (marine, bioenergy, electricity) currently in operation.
5. Establish a new forum for Community Energy Engagement. The challenges and opportunities around climate change cannot be met by Government acting alone. Labourâ€™s White Paper on Energy was based on extensive public consultation and we will continue to strengthen the role of citizens in shaping our energy future.
What we have achieved
- Labour in Government published the 2015 White Paper on Energy, which set out ambitious plans for a low carbon future whilst ensuring of energy security, supply and affordability for citizens. It outlines how Irelandâ€™s energy transition will involve a diversified and accelerated programme of renewable electricity generation, a much sharper focus on energy efficiency, and a plan to involve citizens and communities as agents of change in the way Ireland generates, transmits, stores, conserves and uses energy.
- We also produced a new National Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty which includes a â‚¬20m pilot project to improve domestic energy efficiency for people suffering from chronic health and circulatory conditions.
- We established a national mitigation plan to reduceÂ emissions and within each local authority, we established climate change teams to assess the risks and needs around the effects of climate change in each community.
- We supported and expanded the Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme, which has improved the efficiency of 140,000 homes in energy poverty. Better Energy Programmes delivered upgrades worth â‚¬118 million to 24,600 homes and 900 public and commercial buildings in 2014.
Issues to note
- Under the EUâ€™s growth strategy Europe 2020, Ireland has three 2020 targets related to climate change; a GHG emissions reduction target, a renewable energy target and an energy efficiency target.
- In Government, the Labour Party enacted Irelandâ€™s first ever Climate Change law which sets out a statutory framework to work towards our existing and future agreed targets.Â We have adopted a range of support measures designed to meet our binding targets and while there are challenges in achieving these targets, we have made good progress.
- We are confident that we will reach the renewable electricity target and the renewable heat targets by 2020. Renewable transport targets will be a challenge to meet. Our energy efficiency targets whilst not binding are very challenging. That is why we plan to invest almost â‚¬600m to improve energy efficiency of dwellings and have already introduced a new energy efficiency incentive scheme for large companies.
- Ireland will seek to ensure that our 2030 targets are fair, affordable and achievable as well as technically and economically feasible in terms of pursuing an effective low-carbon transition over the period concerned.
- We are determined to take all necessary and reasonable steps to decarbonise and will take all cost-effective measures to do so recognising that this will have to be achieved in the context of our constrained investment capacity.
- There will be a major gap to be bridged between 2021 and 2030 and our position is that the targets should also be proportionate to what other EU Member States are being asked to do and critically, they cannot undermine our ability to achieve Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) targets.
Costings of our Plan.
- The energy efficiency plan is based on â‚¬100m of exchequer funding plus â‚¬500m from the Green Infrastructure Fund. It will cover 180,000 retrofits (average cost â‚¬2,200 per house) and 10,000 deep retrofits (average unit cost â‚¬20,000) plus the projected 35,000 retrofits that would be undertaken under the existing Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme based on existing budget allocation. Our estimate for jobs is that for every â‚¬10m spent, some 215 jobs in direct employment will be created, â‚¬650,000 knocked off energy bills and 2.3kilotonnes less carbon emissions.
- The â‚¬1bn Green Infrastructure Fund will be made up of â‚¬500m from the planned proceeds of the 25% AIB share sale and this will be matched by private funding. Private funding will be leveraged by the ISIF through special qualifying funds for Green Buses and renewable energy research and development.
- Green Buses. National Transport Authority recently refused permission for Dublin Bus to trial hybrid electric buses due to an absence of funding.Â In order for Dublin Bus to meet its target of reducing its carbon emissions by 33% by 2020, it will need to replace standard diesel vehicles with hybrid electric alternatives. Our plan is for Dublin Bus plus the other urban bus networks to roll out Green buses over the next five years.
- Electric vehicles incentives. The grant for electric cars is currently â‚¬5,000 and the grant for a hybrid car is â‚¬2,500. We are proposing to increase the electric car grant to â‚¬6,000 and hybrid car grant to â‚¬3,000.
- New timetable for Metro North. Commencement date for construction works is 2021 under the Capital Plan. We are conscious that planning and preparatory works will take time and where possible, we will increase funding to help bring forward the commencement date of the construction works of Metro North and ultimately, bring Metro North into operation in advance of 2026/2027.