Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Action, Darren O’Rourke TD, has called on the government to urgently revise their National Retrofit Plan to include specific targets for homes reliant on the burning of solid fuels, echoing policies contained in Sinn Féin’s A Fairer Retrofit Plan.
Commenting on a new cross-border assessment on Air Pollution and Mortality from the Irish Heart Foundation and the British Heart Foundation in the North of Ireland, the Meath East TD said that the environmental, economic and public health justifications for a change in tack were no longer ones that the government could ignore.
Teachta O’Rourke said:
“The results are clear and the government must take stock. Air pollution is causing up to 1000 premature deaths every year; and importantly, the bulk of the pollution that is damaging our health comes from the burning of solid fuels in the home.
“The government’s approach to solid fuels – from turf bans to carbon taxes – has prioritised a punitive approach from the get go.
“In Sinn Féin we not only think a fairer way is possible, we believe that it’s preferable not just in terms of our fight to tackle climate catastrophe but also in our efforts to prioritise public health.
“Solid fuels are among the most carbon intensive fuels, emitting almost twice as much emissions as natural gas and furthermore, as today’s report has shown, they pose a massive risk to our health.
“The Irish Heart Foundation CEO said today that he thinks that this is a serious but solvable problem and called on the government to increase the access of solid fuel homes to the National Retrofitting Plan. I agree. We can make progress but only if the government acknowledges that its retrofitting scheme is failing across yet another dimension.
“Sinn Féin’s progressive approach would allocate €50m to establish a new retrofit scheme for solid fuel homes.
“By allocating 10% of our retrofit budget, we would maximise emissions reductions and prioritise those homes, the majority of them rural, who have no other alternatives but to rely on coal, timber and briquettes for heating. Many of these households are also middle to low income meaning they are completely priced out of the government’s scheme.
“And, more worryingly, we have witnessed a sharp increase in the numbers of people living in fuel poverty in solid fuel homes.
“The report also drew attention to the fact that when it comes to addressing the climate, we need an all-island approach.
“Like many challenges and opportunities that we face as a country, our best approach is a united front.
“The situation is urgent for the climate and also for the health of the general public. If the government does not want to listen to Sinn Féin and policies we put forward, they should at least start to listen to the increasing numbers of others who say that they must change tack.”