Climate action bill ‘cannot be allowed to cripple rural economy’

It is imperative that the Climate Action Bill 2019 is not allowed to cripple the rural economy, according to independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

The Roscommon-Galway TD was speaking as the draft general scheme of the Climate Action (Amendment) Bill 2019 was published today, Monday, January 6, by Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton.

The scheme, which the minister noted is priority legislation for the Government in the new Dail term, includes details on the development of carbon budgets and a ban on the sale of fossil fuel cars by 2030.

However, deputy Fitzmaurice was critical of the Government’s intention to push ahead with these plans despite other potential measures seemingly being ignored.

Commenting on today’s announcement, he said: “We cannot allow this Government to force through legislation which will cripple the rural economy.

In relation to the ban on the sale of fossil fuel cars by 2030, representatives of Mazda – a well-known car manufacturer – have noted that an electric vehicle with a battery over 35.5kWh in size would not be as efficient as a comparably-sized diesel vehicle, even after the battery is replaced after 100,000 miles.

“They claim that long-range batteries would be worse for the environment, when manufacturing and energy consumption is taken into account.

“While the minister seems intent on forging ahead with this legislation, he is seemingly ignoring other potential measures.

“What has he done when it comes to supporting anaerobic digestion or introducing a maximum stocking rate on farms or restricting feedlots?

What has he done in relation to [some] dairy farms exporting slurry off-farm or where the calves bred from some cows on dairy farms are unmarketable for the beef sector?

Turning to forestry, the TD noted that Minister Bruton previously referred to a target of 8,000ha of land being planted per year.

Deputy Fitzmaurice highlighted that, as things stand, the processing of both planting and felling licences are “at a standstill – with little or no progress being made”.

“There is no doubt that the agriculture sector will play its part when it comes to reducing emissions. But the minister has to stop living in a dream world.

“In my view, if an election is called in the next month or six weeks, this legislation will be placed on the back burner,” he added.

The TD issued a reminder that during the economic recession in recent years, with a national debt of over €200 billion, the agricultural sector kept the lights on in the country, stating:

We have to make sure that this legislation does not cripple the rural economy.

“When the Irish economy took a nosedive, it was the agriculture sector that kept this country afloat.

“However, now that other sectors are on an upward trajectory, the role of the agriculture sector seems to be forgotten.”

Australian question

Deputy Fitzmaurice raised concerns over the impact of decisions on Australia, stating: “Instead of pushing the green agenda, the minister needs to take a look at what is going on in Australia.

“Restrictions were placed on controlled burning and there were objections to bridges for bringing water to different areas.

These were contributing factors to the fires becoming so widespread and causing so much devastation in recent weeks.

“The minister needs to make sure that we don’t go down this road,” Fitzmaurice concluded.

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