October 5, 2023
Real Climate Action at the heart of Sinn Féin’s Alterative Budget – Darren O’Rourke TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Action and the Environment, Darren O’Rourke TD, has highlighted Sinn Féin’s plans to tackle climate change and to deliver a just transition.

Commenting following the launch of Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget for 2024, the Meath East TD said:

“Sinn Féin’s proposals would deliver at the pace and ambition needed to secure Ireland’s transition to net zero. While acknowledging the scale of the challenge that stands before us, we also recognise the importance of fairness and of delivering a transition where no one is left behind.

“First, we propose to rapidly accelerate the transition to renewable energy by investing an additional €133 million to tackle long-standing barriers. The speed-up delivery of renewables not only represents a key measure to address climate chaos, it also presents us an incredible opportunity. Our proposal would place us on the path towards energy independence, an opportunity which has been squandered by successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael-led governments for decades.

“Crucially, we must ensure that this development of our vast natural resources translate into national wealth for all. Therefore, our alternative budget seeks to expand public, domestic and community ownership of renewables.

“We want to see Ireland’s solar potential realised by doubling the funding for solar PV delivered through a programme of tiered grants, and further by establishing a dedicated scheme for local authority homes.

“Our proposals would also speed up the electrification of heat via dedicated measures to target industry, local authorities, and public bodies. The energy transition is also supported by a new fund for innovation in renewable energy and increased investment in our ports to facilitate the roll out of offshore wind.

“As well as these new measures to nurture the development of renewables, our proposals also address key barriers in the sector, notably the under-resourcing of state bodies and the beleaguered planning system.

“We have also set out ambitious plans to protect and enhance nature by investing an additional €75.5 million, expanding publicly owned and accessible green spaces and natural areas while contributing to carbon storage and sequestration, through a dedicated nature restoration fund, increased investment in afforestation and in urban green spaces, the expansion and restoration of our national parks, and by increasing funding to develop skills and expertise in biodiversity at local and national level.

“Importantly, we also propose a number of bottom-up approaches to address the biodiversity crisis, including a peer-to-peer support scheme, placing the biodiversity centre on a statutory footing and increasing funding to the Irish Environmental Network.

“In order to ensure that the poorest, coldest homes are not left behind as we decarbonise our energies and societies, we would replace the government’s current retrofitting scheme costing an additional €178 million.

“Our area based, tiered grant approach would deliver cost effective and expedited delivery. It would be genuinely accessible to low- and middle-income homes and, significantly, would ensure that the poorest homes had access to free retrofits.

“Our alternative budget also sets out a specific scheme for households relying on solid fuels, as these are often the coldest homes with the highest emissions. This has been a glaring omission in the government’s plan to date.

“Sinn Féin’s alternative budget 2024 also prioritises public transport via an additional investment of €168 million. This includes increased investment in the Western Rail Corridor and the Navan rail line. We would make the 20% fare reduction and 50% fare reduction for young people and students permanent. We would also extend it to rural operators and ramp up spending on the Connecting Ireland rural bus scheme.

“We also have plans to establish a pilot scheme to remunicipalise waste in Dublin City Council, as well to develop a new inspection scheme for construction and demolition waste.

“Finally, we must prioritise climate justice and delivering a transition. As well as measures to address wealth-related emissions, we plan to tackle the high cost of electricity and consequent high levels of energy poverty. It is high time that this chaos was reined in, and that ordinary workers, families and hard-pressed businesses are given the relief they need.

“This would require an investment of €415 million. Alongside an energy price cap to reduce the cost of electricity, our plans would ensure that the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities is resourced properly. This would enable them to carry out their existing responsibilities and to carry out newly mandated tasks via our recently published legislation, including the regulation of hedging, standing charges and anti-competitive behaviour.

“To address energy poverty more specifically, we also propose the establishment of a civil society engagement unit as part of the energy poverty steering group ensuring that they are guaranteed a seat at the table and are seriously engaged with rather than being consulted as part of a tick box exercise. We would also establish a local energy advisor scheme, which is a key recommendation of NGOs in the sector, and increase and ring-fence funding for smart heating control grants.

“Sinn Féin’s measures make it clear that we are serious about addressing climate change, that we have the vision, the ambition and the determination to decarbonise our economies and societies. And unlike the current government, we will place fairness at the heart of our solutions. A transition that is not just is no transition at all. We can achieve this transition and simultaneously ensure that no one is left behind.”

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