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Taoiseach wants to up spending on climate change to avoid hefty EU fines

Ireland is facing a fine of €75 million each year if 16% of its energy doesn’t come from renewable-energy sources by 2020.

Image: Sam Boal

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said he would rather increase funding to tackle climate change than have to pay hefty EU fines in the future.

Ireland is facing a fine of €75 million each year if 16% of its energy doesn’t come from renewable-energy sources by 2020, such as solar panels and wind turbines.

EU member states have committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030.

Currently, Ireland is one of four member states that are predicted to miss their emissions target.

Varadkar said there will be a “big focus” on climate change by his government this year, and over the next ten years “to enable us to meet our commitments which we are not meeting at the moment”.

He said:

In fact from 2020 onwards we’re heading into some pretty major fines for not meeting our obligations. I would rather spend money now on meeting our commitments than on fines from 2020 onwards.

In an interview with TheJournal.ie, Environment Minister Denis Naughten admitted that the Ireland’s progress on the 2020 emissions targets has been disappointing.

Attending a climate summit in Paris last year, Naughten reaffirmed Ireland’s commitment to the global objectives set down by the Paris Agreement to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“I am going to get us as close as possible to the target,” he told TheJournal.ie, stating that despite missing the 20% reduction for 2020, he hopes to hit the 30% reduction mark in 2030.

The bigger issue for the minister is the renewable energy targets, said Naughten.

The current trajectory puts Ireland at 13% so far, but if we fail to hit these targets, the country face annualised fines from the European Union, explained the minister.

So how is Ireland going to meet the targets?

The new Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme will help Ireland with its targets, according to the minister.

The government also have plans to introduce more incentives for drivers to buy electric cars, with new grants being launched this week, and plans to cut out toll payments for those that have electric cars.

Such moves aim to increase the number of electric vehicles by 1,200.

Budget 2018 also pledged to support the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland with the delivery of its commitments.

Read: From today, you can now get a bit of cash to install an electric car charger in your home>

Watch: The Environment Minister took TheJournal.ie for a spin in his new e-car – and Michael Healy Rae might be next>

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