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Climate Change

Varadkar blaming Fianna Fáil for ministers using diesel cars is 'petty' and 'cheap', says Martin

Leo Varadkar said the government would move to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheál Martin has called the Taoiseach’s comments yesterday on why ministers are using diesel cars ”cheap” and “petty”.

Speaking at the launch of the Climate Action Plan yesterday, Leo Varadkar said the government would move to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2030. 

During the press conference, which ministers arrived at in a hybrid bus (one of only three hybrids in the fleet), Varadkar hit out at the Fianna Fáil-Green Party government which gave tax breaks for the purchase of diesel cars.

“One of the biggest mistakes which was made by the Fianna-Fail-Green government was to encourage people to buy diesel cars. They hallowed our tax base and we now know diesel cars are probably worse for the environment in the round because they damage our air quality. If you want a top 10 list of worst policy decisions in the past couple of decades it was that one,” he said yesterday.

It was pointed out to the Taoiseach that the majority of ministers in his own Cabinet continue to drive diesel cars, despite the government’s message against them.

When asked why so many ministers still drive diesel cars, Varadkar blamed Fianna Fáil.

“The reason eight ministers have diesel cars is the same reason one million people have diesel cars is because they were incorrectly incentivised to purchase diesel cars by a major environmental policy error made by Fianna Fail and the Greens when they were in government.

“We are going to need to correct that now but not in a way that punishes people. We need to incentivise people over time to move to hybrids and electric cars,” he said.

When asked about the Taoiseach’s comments today on RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke programme, Martin said the remarks were “classic” Varadkar, deflecting from the question as to why his government is promoting green travel, while his minister driver diesel cars.

Martin said he found it “incredible” that the Taoiseach made such comments, calling them “mean-spirited” and “petty”.

The Fianna Fáil leader said Varadkar has had eight years to change the policy, and has failed to do so. Martin explained that the initiative to encourage a move from petrol to diesel cars was due to the science around carbon emissions at the time, which he added has clearly moved on.

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.

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