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What are the Greens' climate policies and how do they compare to other left wing parties?

While a green wave overtook the local elections, the Greens’ Ciaran Cuffe topped the European poll in Dublin.

Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

WELL, MOST RESULTS are in and it’s clear that a “Green Wave” has spread across the country in this year’s local and European elections. 

Looking at the European elections, the Green Party’s Ciaran Cuffe has topped the poll in Dublin. 

While he received a lower vote share than projected by the RTÉ/TG4 exit poll, Cuffe was still comfortably elected on the 13th count.

Meanwhile in the local elections, over 40 Green Party councillors have been elected across the country. 

The party had just 12 councillors elected in 2014, after being all but wiped out in the 2011 general election when not one TD was reelected. 

So, as the Greens have seen a major surge and secured new seats across the country, what exactly does the party stand for? 

TheJournal.ie has taken a look at some of its policies. 

Climate change

Obviously, the Green Party’s main focus is climate change and climate politics.

So, looking at the party’s general policies, what does the party have to say about climate action? 

“As a political party we are unique in having the expertise and experience to implement the policy changes Ireland needs in order to respond to and mitigate climate change. All of our policies have been developed with this urgent need to take action in mind,” the party says. 

In relation to climate action, the Green Party pledges to:

  • Implement fully the UN’s sustainable development goals
  • Refocus national policy in order to reach the EU’s 2020 and 2030 emissions targets
  • Promote climate justice throughout Irish and European policymaking. 

The Greens also take a stance on energy efficiency, renewable energy and fossil fuels, and a green economy. 

Let’s move on to take a look at the party’s European manifesto points:

  • Calling for European climate law, with binding carbon budgets reducing emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and building a net-zero emissions economy. This must include restoring natural carbon sinks in forests and soils.  

  • Not a single euro from taxpayers should finance fossil fuels. Europe must phase out coal by 2030 and other fossil fuels, including gas, as soon as possible thereafter. Nuclear power and fracking have no role to play in the clean energy future.

  • Non-recyclable plastics must be taxed or banned, sustainable alternatives developed, and recycling and reuse targets raised. We propose strict limits on exporting waste and the introduction of taxes on the extraction and import of raw materials.

2_4801 Cuffe_90571916_90571924 Green Party member Ciaran Cuffe celebrates after being the first MEP elected in the Dublin constituency at the European elections count at the RDS Source: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

As climate action is somewhat the backbone of the Green Party’s policies, let’s take a quick look at how those points compare to other left-leaning parties in Ireland at the moment. 

Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin lays out its stance on climate action in both its local and European elections manifestos.

We’ll take a look at its European manifesto, in which Sinn Féin calls for no hikes in relation to carbon tax. 

The party is also calling for the “establishment of a robust strategy for decarbonising the economy before 2050 through investment in alternatives”. 

Its other policies include: 

  • Divestment from fossil fuels in all member states, similar to the Irish Fossil Fuel Divestment Act.

  • An EU wide ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking), as well as the import of fracked gas.

  • Full transposition of the habitats directive and meeting all biodiversity targets.

  • Full implementation of the single use plastics directive.

Social Democrats

Now, let’s take a look at the Social Democrats’ views on climate change and the environment. 

The party has laid out its stance on the topic through its manifesto for local elections. So, the below points are to be considered at a local level. 

“Climate Change is the single biggest threat to our environment, to our living standards, to our existence,” the Social Democrats say.

The party says its goal is to make each council a “climate-focussed council”. 

Here are some of the party’s aims: 

  • We will drive strong long-term planning and sustainable communities. 
  • We will promote biodiversity, recycling and strong anti-dumping measures. 
  • We will support cycling and public transport. 
  • We will encourage new energy solutions and put councils at the heart of delivering them. 

People Before Profit

People Before Profit says that it would “do things very differently” in terms of climate action. 

“Our commitment to this generation and the next is to move to a carbon neutral economy by 2035. This is a massive undertaking which will need decisive action led by government and the corporate sector,” the party says. 

Some of People Before Profit’s climate action policies for 2019 include:

  • Investing in an expansion of the bus fleet and move to make public transport free.
  • Bringing public transport subvention to 2008 level then increase by 33%.
  • 5,000 renewable energy jobs as part of a five-year investment plan.
  • Reforestation programme to move away from overreliance on spruce.
  • Investment in water infrastructure.
  • Invest heavily on cycling infrastructure to make this form of transport more accessible.

Transport

Now that we’ve looked at the Green Party’s stance on climate action and compared it to other left wing parties, let’s dive into some of the party’s policies on other issues. 

First up, transport. 

In its general policies, the Green Party pledges to “plan for better connections between homes and workplaces” and to “create transport hubs and orbital bus routes for better connectivity”. 

It also says it will allocate funding for greatly expanded cycling infrastructure, provide cleaner transport via hybrid and emission-free buses, and invest in sustainable transport infrastructure. 

Here are some of the Green Party’s European manifesto points on transport: 

  • We propose that no new fossil-fuel cars be sold in Europe after 2030. The Union must support the creation of low-emission zones in towns and cities across Europe and promote cycling and walking.
  • Funding for sustainable transport must be redirected from subsidies for air travel through the introduction of a European flight tax, European VAT on tickets as well as ending the kerosene tax exemption for airplanes.

European Parliament election Green Party leader Eamon Ryan speaking to the media over the weekend at the RDS in Dublin Source: Niall Carson via PA Images

Education

Next, what policies does the Green Party have around education? 

The party says it aims for “inclusive education” and pledges to create “flexible, mobile” third level education, along with including all sexual and gender identities in the relationships and sexuality curriculum. 

It aims to support parents by introducing a childcare payment scheme, providing for six months of paid parental leave and including a comprehensive school meals programme. 

The Greens also want to create a stronger apprenticeship programme and to facilitate more PhD students.

Here’s some of the Green Party’s European manifesto points on education: 

  • Our long-term vision is free and accessible education for all to reduce education inequality.
  • We propose to increase funding for independent research and innovation considerably to meet big societal challenges, following the success of the Horizon 2020 programme.
  • The Erasmus+ exchange must be broadened and strengthened to really enable people from all backgrounds to work, train or study in another country.

Housing

And, finally, as the housing and homelessness crisis in Ireland continues to deepen, party policies on the issue will be of interest to citizens nationwide.

The Green Party’s policies lay bare a number changes it would make to Ireland’s current housing landscape.

The party wants to provide social housing via a cost-rental model and see increased regional and local engagement in housing provision. 

It also wants to increase housing supply, remove the sale of property as a reason for ending a lease and to establish an independent building standards regulator. 

Here’s some of the Green Party’s European manifesto points on education: 

  • Public investments in social, affordable and energy-efficient housing should be supported with European funds.
  • We believe in nationally funded, locally delivered approach towards public housing policy and that we must protect those who rent properties from exploitation. Every person must have their right to a home recognised by national government.

And so, that’s a look into some of the Green Party’s policies on some major topics in Irish society. 

But will we see the policies come into being? Would the Greens consider going into the next government? 

Well, asked about this earlier in the week, Ciarán Cuffe said that is a question “for another day” and his hope is that “we see a move towards a more sustainable Ireland and a more sustainable Europe, and I think that can happen in a number of different ways”.

And asked about Green policies following his election, he said: 

We’d love to make those changes ourselves, but we’d certainly welcome if other parties want to take on the policies that we’ve been advocating for many years particularly when we have the prospect of carbon fines kicking in and people will be paying a price unless we do change our policies.
So, only time will tell about the impact the Green Wave will actually have on Ireland’s political landscape.

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