Published yesterday, the Government’s Climate Action Plan has been slammed as a “savage attack” on rural Ireland by independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

Speaking on the matter, Fitzmaurice said: “The Government’s plan for climate change is an anti-rural, green colander. It is, despite all the packaging, watery and full of holes.

“When it comes to carbon, once again, rural Ireland will be expected to pay the price of urban bliss. The document published today by the Government is, at best, vague. It is a knee-jerk reaction by this Government to the green ‘ripple’ witnessed in the recent elections.

“It is also worth noting that there is little or no mention of the aviation sector in the plan despite the massive level of emissions it is responsible for.

“Meanwhile, it seems as if this Government is intent on making family farms extinct. This plan is utterly divorced from the realities of rural Ireland.

“Rural Ireland is being targeted by equalising duties on petrol and diesel. If we look at the impact it will have, a farm’s agricultural contracting bill could jump by €500 or €600 per year. That is before taking into account the additional costs of running the family car.

“Those living in rural Ireland are being unfairly targeted by this plan. These people – middle Ireland – have to drive to work, they have to drive their kids to school and go about their day-to-day lives without access to sufficient public transport or the proper infrastructure.

“They are immediately at a disadvantage compared to those living in the larger towns and cities when it comes to this plan.”

Choices to make

However, the Roscommon-Galway TD believes that people in rural Ireland need to wake up and make their voices heard when a General Election is called.

Continuing, he added: “Rural Ireland is being used as a scapegoat by this Government. This plan would see people living there being hit hardest by the proposals, while still being asked to be the carbon sink for the entire country.

“Farmers and the poor will pay, pay, and pay again for climate change. The proposal to increase the carbon tax up to €80 per tonne will only compound this.

“Before the European and Local Elections, farmers received word on the €100 million Brexit beef fund. But it was only after the votes had been cast did we learn that a ‘production reduction’ measure was being pushed by Europe.

“I believe that the implications that this plan will have for farmers will become even more severe as more details emerge. But this fits with the Fine Gael narrative of pushing family farms towards extinction and increasing the acreage of factory farms.

“Independent and Fianna Fail TDs propping up this Fine Gael led Government will also have to decide whether or not to stand idly by and watch as Fine Gael set rural Ireland up as the sacrificial lamb for the larger, urban centers.”

Mandatory planting of forestry?

Fitzmaurice also raised concerns regarding whispers from sources close to this Government that it will soon be mandatory for farmers to plant some forestry on their land.

“From what we are hearing from Government sources, it could soon be mandatory for all farmers to plant some forestry on their land.

“This would be totally unacceptable and discriminative against those living in rural Ireland. If that rumour did come to pass, it would be interesting to find out who would benefit from the carbon credits that would be created.

“While Minister Bruton waxes lyrically about the measures in this plan, he doesn’t want to acknowledge that hedgerows cover 6% of Ireland and the part it has to play in this discussion. Despite the area it covers, Ireland doesn’t benefit from a single tonne of sequestration.”

Electric vehicles

On the topics of electric vehicles, the independent TD said: “While I am not against them, electric vehicles will not plough fields or bale hay.

“The technology hasn’t advanced enough yet to be of practical use for those living in rural Ireland – but they may suit those living in cities who only make short journeys.

“In terms of public transport, I have seen results from an independent study that hybrid and electric buses are not yet ready to replace their diesel counterparts – failing to drive up hills along with frequent reliability issues.”

Lack of innovation

While Fitzmaurice welcomed some of the measures in principal, he stated that there was a “lack of innovation and originality” in the proposals on improving livestock management, improving nitrogen use, and the better management of peatlands and soils.

“These resemble after-thoughts, as distinct to the coherent plan rural Ireland needs,” he added.

Continuing, the independent TD indicated that he had no problem with retrofitting homes, but added that the Government needs to explain – when it comes to proposed ESB power plant closures across the country – how it intends to replace these jobs.

“While their homes may be warm, the proposals in this plan won’t put food on the table.

“The Government’s failure to replace these jobs will be another example of how this plan is a culmination of spin, clever soundbites and well-meaning gobbledygook – as distinct to an actual solution,” he concluded.

Michael Fitzmaurice TD – 0861914565

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