Sinn Féin has denied suggestions that it lacks coherent climate change policies or takes populist positions on the issue.
Party climate change spokesperson Darren O’Rourke has said he supports the targets set in the government’s climate legislation – halving emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050 – but insisted that Sinn Féin disagreed on how it should be done.
This week Sinn Féin withdrew a private member’s bill that would have severely limited the development of the onshore wind industry in Ireland. He is also opposed to the carbon tax.
Prominent party figures including Chief Mary Lou McDonald and agriculture spokesperson Matt Carthy have said they oppose a reduction in the suckler herd, and he has made no commitments on the cuts. of the dairy herd.
Asked in a media interview on Wednesday that Sinn Féin took populist positions without suggesting a substantial political alternative, O’Rourke argued that the government needs to engage more with communities and sectors most affected by climate change.
“We have supported and have been constructive in opposition in terms of what needs to be done,” he said. “The difference is the road we have to travel to get there. And fundamentally our concern is that the approach that has been taken by the government is punitive to the most vulnerable people, who are on the front lines of this. There is no proper commitment.
“Trajectory to failure”
He said his honest argument was to have more engagement “by including these stakeholders and crafting a plan that supports them.”
“We are on a path of failure over this,” he said. “(For some people) the transition means the difference between a diesel Land Rover and a Tesla X. For others it means not having a job in the morning and not being able to heat the house in the morning.”
Mr O’Rourke said people were up for the challenge of climate change but needed encouragement.
Asked about his alternative policies to meet targets in sectors such as agriculture, Mr Carthy said the Irish suckler herd is one of the most sustainable in the world.
“It makes no sense if you continue to eat meat that you are reducing the Irish suckler herd and replacing it with a factory controlled feed, whether it comes from Ireland or is imported from Brazil.”
For this reason, he said, Ireland should advocate for the rejection of the Mercosur trade deal with South America.
When asked if he would reduce the size of the Irish dairy herd, Mr Carthy said government policy over the past decade had been to increase it, which needed to be analyzed. He added that agriculture was the only sector that was profitable.
“So the answer to all of this isn’t the stick. It’s the carrot,” he said. “It’s creating new opportunities for farmers to diversify so they can stay. on their land and one of the key areas of that has to be the growth of the organic sector. ”
He said the Irish target of reaching 7 percent organic was far too low compared to the EU’s 25 percent target.
“You are creating alternatives for farmers. If there are no profitable alternatives, it will be very difficult, ”he said.
Mr. O’Rourke disagreed that the time for consultation is over. He said the government had committed € 200m for house insulation when billions were needed. He admitted that there was a “reality check for all of us” in terms of achieving goals.