Monday, February 11, 2008

The Greens - right questions, wrong targets?

From The Green Party Website
“The Government will set a target for this administration of a reduction of 3% per year on average in our greenhouse gas emissions.”

The net result should be a 15% reduction in emissions by the end of this Govt’s term of office in mid-2012, a little over 4 years away.

So what are the green Party Initiatives to achieve this reduction?

1. New Housing regulations.
With a projected 50-60k new housing units per annum, compared to an existing housing stock of 2m+, the impact of this will be minimal in the next 4 years.

2. Changes in VRT & Motor Tax, taxing emissions rather than engine size.
Up to 70% of 2008 registered cars will be purchased by 1st July (and probably 100% of SUVs etc) so any impact in the second half of 2008 will be minimal.
With the size of the 2nd-hand car market in Ireland, it will actually take about 10 years to turnover the national fleet.
The majority of cars purchased in Ireland are already relatively small-engined Fords, Toyotas, Nissans, Fiats etc..
Given the combined impact of the above 3 points, the net effect of the tax changes, within the life of the current Govt, will probably be relatively small in terms of emissions reduction.

3. Light Bulb ban.
This ban comes into effect on Jan 1 2009. Presumably most existing householders will only change when their existing bulbs burn-out, so it will probably be mid-2009 before the full beneficial effect is achieved. While welcome, this will make a very small contribution to the overall 15% target.

4. Renewable Energy Sources
Frequently raised by Minister Eamon Ryan as the solution, he talks about the abundance of free wind, wave and tidal power and our capacity to grow bio-fuels.
Now, the bio-fuel debate has changed significantly, with recent studies showing that they are even more injurious to the environment than the fossil fuels they are supposed to replace.
Wave & tidal power are only at the experimental/prototype stage. Even if approval was given in the morning, there would not be a single wave or tidal installation producing electricity on a commercial basis by the time this Govt has to leave office in 2012.

5. Transport
Minister Ryan has advocated “carbon-free methods of transport”, by which he means walking and cycling. How feasible is this for many commuters, given the urban sprawl we live in?
Major infrastructural investment in public transport, such as Dublin’s proposed metro, extension of Luas, rail connection to Navan, Western Rail Corridor etc. will all take years to deliver, any emissions-reduction impact by mid-2012 will be minimal.

It’s clear that none of the above, while all broadly welcome as long-term initiatives, has the capacity to seriously contribute to the 15% emissions reduction target during the life of this Govt..
So where is the detailed programme of initiatives which will achieve this particular target from the Programme for Govt?
I suspect that the only way the Greens can achieve this objective is through very punitive measures, banning activities they see as wasteful or at least taxing them to the point where they become unviable, except for the most well-off and, of course, elected officials.
Wouldn’t it be good to see leadership from the top on this - with the Govt imposing restrictions on both itself and the public services, before imposing them on the rest of us?
In any event, we urgently need to see the detailed integrated plan to show how the national 15% target will be achieved by mid-2012.

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