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'Disturbing': War of words breaks out between the Greens and FG over 7% emissions target

A new government could be a while away as emissions targets becomes a stumbling block.

THE POSSIBILITY OF the Green Party entering into formal talks with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil has been brought into question today due to a war of words breaking out between Tánaiste Simon Coveney and the Green Party’s Catherine Martin.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Coveney said the 7% yearly reduction in emissions would not be signed up to at the detriment of farmers and rural Ireland. 

He told the newspaper:

“I am not going to put farmers out of business.

“Nothing has been ruled out effectively. But, there are some things you simply can’t say yes to without figuring out how it’s going to be done,” he said.

“If it decimates rural Ireland, we’re not doing it.

“Let’s be very clear on that, we are not going to sign up to a programme for government that decimates rural Ireland. That’ll never happen, even if that means another election.”

The Green Party has said the 7% reduction is a red line issue for the party entering into a coalition government.

Speaking on RTE’s Sean O’Rourke programme today, Martin said Coveney’s comments were “shocking” and “disturbing”. 

She said alarm bells were ringing for her, adding that Fine Gael signed up to the Paris Agreement which commits to the target.

She said the demand for a 7% reduction is not a Green Party initiative, but something that was signed off on by the Citizens’ Assembly and the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action. 

Martin said the world is facing catastrophe if emissions are not reduced, stating that the 7% reduction could come in the form of more investment in walking and cycling, more investment in off-shore energy, and an end to fossil fuel reliance. 

She accused Coveney of playing to the Fine Gael base with his comments. Defending his party colleague, TD Colm Brophy said his party only wanted to know the details of what a 7% reduction entails.

In their reply to the Green Party’s questions, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil said in a letter this week that they were open to teasing out how a 7% reduction might be achieved every year, but added that a proper breakdown of the figures are needed to ensure that it does not negatively impact the economy and heap costs on people at a time when the country is facing into a recession due to Covid-19.

The government’s Climate Action Plan sets out to reduce emissions by 35% by 2030 (or 3.5% per year on average). If the Green Party succeed in its plan, it would be a doubling of the efforts set out in the plan.

A government source states that the plan as it currently exists “represents a decisive shift in policy, and sets out clearly for the first time how Ireland can meet it’s legally binding EU 2030 targets”. 

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