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Taoiseach says he'll ditch his diesel car for hybrid 'if it makes sense'

Cabinet ministers launched the first progress report on the Climate Action Plan today.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he could be ditching his diesel car.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he could be ditching his diesel car.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

THE TAOISEACH has said he will switch his State car to a hybrid “if it makes sense”. 

Speaking at the launch of the first progress report on the Climate Action Plan, Leo Varadkar said the gardaí have already tried out hybrid cars for both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste Simon Coveney to see if they could be used.

“We will switch over to hybrids for the cars that are provided by the gardaí,” he said.

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan were recently criticised for continuing to be driven around in diesel-­fuelled cars despite the government’s plan to encourage one million people to switch to electric or hybrid vehicles in the next decade.

Security reasons were cited for being part of the refusal to switch. 

However, today’s remarks by the Taoiseach indicate that more ministers could be driving electric or hybrid cars in the near future. 

Transport Minister Shane Ross and Climate Change Minister Richard Bruton have already switched to electric and hybrid vehicles. 

Earlier this year, the Taoiseach said his ministers should lead by example, encouraging them to switch to a hybrid or electric. 

“Something needs to change, we need more of the public fleet — the Government owns a lot of vehicles, the gardaí, the HSE, you name it — so I think the Government could lead by example by having more low-emissions vehicles, more electric vehicles,” he said in January.

an-taoiseach-launches-progress-report-on-the-climate-action-plan-2019 Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Flanked by a number of Cabinet ministers today, including Minister for Health Simon Harris, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy, and Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief Kevin Boxer Moran, Varadkar said everyone must play their part in tackling climate change.

He said a lot of people are very enthusiastic about some of the climate actions “that don’t really affect them, but get quite queasy about the ones that might affect them, and that’s the area [where] that the government took a decision to do something”.

“We know what needs to be done. With this progress report we are making ourselves accountable to ensure it is done.”

The Climate Action Plan, led by Environment Minister Richard Bruton, sets out actions across every sector which he said will “ensure we meet our 2030 climate commitments, putting us on a trajectory to be net zero emissions by 2050”.

3025 Climate Action Plan_90583780 Source: Leah Farrell

Since the plan was published, the government has listed key milestones such as the new scheme for 1,200 on-street public charge points for electric vehicles, the first Luas tram extension being delivered, and a climate action-focused budget with a commitment to increase the price of carbon to €80 per tonne in 2030, with all the proceeds going towards the government’s climate plan.

When it was put to Varadkar that Ireland has little to celebrate in terms of environmental targets, he agreed that the State lags behind in reaching agreed emissions and quotas.

“Our greenhouse gas emissions are down two years in a row, but they need to be falling by 2% or 3% a year and we’re nowhere near that, actually the gap is widening as a result of that, so what we need to do is implement the action plan that we’ve produced,” he said.

Varadkar said the greatest reason for the failure to deliver climate action of the scale needed to date has been the absence of sectoral accountability.

“It has always been someone else’s problem,” he said. 

He said the Climate Action Plan sets out what each sector needs to do over the next decade. The forthcoming Climate Action Bill will take the next step, he said, by providing sectoral carbon budgets with penalties for non-delivery.

“The old way of doing things has not worked so we are creating a new framework,” he said. 

With reporting by Press Association’s Aoife Moore 

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