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FF and FG tell the Greens they want to 'tease out' how 7% emissions reduction might be achieved

Responding in a letter to the Green Party, Martin and Varadkar make a number of commitments.

Image: Leah Farrell

FIANNA FAIL AND Fine Gael has responded to the Green Party’s 17 questions stating that they are open to teasing out through talks how a 7% a year emissions reduction can be achieved. 

In a response to the policy framework document, last week the Green Party called for a number of commitments before it would enter into government formation talks. 

The party sought answers to a number of questions, such as will the next government commit to ending the issue of exploration licences for offshore gas exploration and cease the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure, particularly LNG import terminals.

Responding to Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, the letter from Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin stated that they wanted “to understand and tease out with you through talks, the specific actions that would have to be taken to achieve at least an average 7% a year reduction”.

Ryan has said such a reduction would be a red line issue for them entering government.

“We all need to understand the impact it would have on employment, poverty, agricultural practice, public transport, regional development and on the different sections of society,” stated the letter, adding that considerable work would have to be done to outline where and when further carbon reductions could or should come from given the economic situation and the need to “significantly reboot and revive the economy”.

“No party will want to introduce changes that will jeopardise employment or increase levels of poverty or have a negative impact on rural and regional development,” wrote Varadkar and Martin.

“We believe that within the first 100 days we should bring forward and enact a new Climate Bill that will enhance and strengthen the Climate Change Advisory Council,” they said.

On offshore gas exploration, Martin and Varadkar said both parties are open to a similar policy ban to onshore exploration for offshore gas exploration. The Greens called for the ceasing of LNG terminal construction also.

The Shannon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal has come under the spotlight in recent months after criticism of the project intensified over its proposed use of fracked gas. The proposed energy project in Kerry made headlines after pop icon Cher became the latest celebrity to call on the government not to back it.

“Both of our parties accept that as we move towards carbon neutrality, it does not make sense to build new large-scale fossil fuel infrastructure such as liquid natural gas import terminals,” said the letter. It adds that while additional security of gas supply could be beneficial, there is a secure supply at present from the Corrib Gas Field and the United Kingdom.

The letter states that there is a need to have a shared understanding of what is meant by new fossil fuel infrastructure, what type scale does this relate to, and whether this proposed ban would apply to State infrastructure or to private sector infrastructure as well.

Ending Direct Provision

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael has also committed to a comprehensive deep retrofit scheme as part of a programme for government. It has also committed to working towards ending the Direct Provision system.

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“This will take time, but both of our parties are committed to achieving the standards set out in the McMahon Report such as own-door and self-catering accommodation and we need to be conscious of other priorities within the housing sector also. We can discuss this further when we meet,” stated the letter.

On transport, the letter from the party leaders stated that their parties are committed t increasing the number of daily journeys by foot and bicycle, as well as investing more in public transport.

We do commit to increasing capital expenditure in walking and cycling areas and we want to discuss the best way that this should be done taking into consideration the pipeline and quality of projects.
We can commit to ensuring that in terms of new transport infrastructure, a 2:1 ratio of expenditure for public transport to roads is achieved.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are also willing to discuss Universal Basis Income as part of the Programme for Government talks. They also commit to reviewing the State’s response to the COVID-19 Emergency to learn lessons for the future in the framework document.

Outlining how some of the framework document’s promises might be achieved, Martin and Varadkar state in the letter that the document “is a starting point for discussion not an end point. 

“Nobody knows with any reasonable degree of accuracy how long the COVID-19 Emergency will last, how slow, or fast the recovery will be or what form of Brexit will take place in 2021,” states the letter, but goes on to state a number of ways Ireland intends to pay, such as by borrowing. 

In conclusion, the letter to Ryan states:

At a time of genuine crisis, we welcome the fact that the Green Party is giving serious consideration to taking part in Programme for Government talks.
We believe that working together we could implement many transformative policy changes across many areas. As mentioned earlier direct discussion between our parties would allow us to tease out any issues arising from the recent letters and the Framework document and hopefully enable us to move to Programme for Government talks.

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