Back in Co.Clare when the pension was first introduced in 1908 applicants were asked if they remembered the “Night of the Big Wind” that happened some 70 years before in order to test their age. That devastating storm that knocked steeples off churches was seared into the memories of all those who had lived through it. On Tuesday night Donegal was hit with a dramatic “rain bomb” that destroyed roads, engulfed homes and swept aside bridges in a six hour deluge. Meteorologists described it as a once in a century storm. However the grim reality of climate change is that such catastrophic weather will become an ever more present part of Irish life. Unfortunately the government has yet to recognise that.
We will fall far short of our 2020 climate change targets and unless the government gets its act together we will also fail to achieve our 2030 objectives. However, during his time in the Department of Transport the Taoiseach showed little interest in getting to grips with the problem. As Friends of the Earth, Director Oisin Coughlan recently commented despite the Taoiseach’s foreign trips, ‘so far Ireland’s climate action is closer to Trump than Trudeau’.
In contrast to that indifference, what we need is a clear plan for a just and fair transition to a low carbon economy. It must be a national effort. Changing will be costly and difficult and it’s too easy to lay the blame on farmers or drivers. The cost of this necessary transition must be shared, not put on the shoulders of a few. We are all in this battle together and it reaches from our homes to our cars and into our workplaces.
Fianna Fáil believes that there should be an overarching long term plan for investment in infrastructure to equip us for decarbonising our economy. To achieve this Fianna Fáil has proposed that a new National Infrastructure Commission tasked with planning ahead over a 25 year period across transport and energy rather than haphazard capital plans by the government of the day.
In transport, daily use of a sustainable public transport network must be an attractive choice for many more people than it is today, and much much more needs to be done to encourage the transition to electric vehicles. They need to be available as a practical and cost effective choice. Fianna Fáil has introduced creative thinking on how the Government could incentivise their use, including national free e-point charges, waiving motor tax, eliminating tolls for e-cars and gradually phasing out fossil fuel cars.
This has to be backed up by ensuring we have a diversified renewable energy mix to sustain homes and businesses. For such projects such as wind and solar energy it’s vital that communities benefit directly from the projects being built in their areas with appropriate planning guidelines.
In our homes we need to launch a new national retrofit programme that will reduce energy bills and keep homes warm. Fianna Fáil is committed to setting up a new Green Homes Agency to lead the way in this ambitious programme.
These measures show we have the capacity to rise to this challenge. If we fail then nights such as the torrential downpours of Tuesday won’t be once in a lifetime events like the “Night of the Big Wind” for the children who lived through it. They will just be the weather.