Genuine congratulations are in order to Ireland’s Green Party, who have managed the heretofore unprecedented feat of turning 7.1% of the popular vote at the last election into the single largest spending plan in the history of the Irish State.
Over the next slightly less than a decade, the Irish Government will spend a staggering €150billion on a plan to reduce Irish emissions by half. By way of easy comparison, the total cost of Ireland’s bank bailout during the great recession of 2008 was a measly €41.7billion. An expense, readers might recall, which was in part responsible for a long decade of austerity. Now, with less than a tenth of the vote, the Green Party has managed to convince its hapless senior partners to commit to a spending spree three times larger, and with little hope of success.
The scale of the proposed spending is astounding, and unprecedented in the history of the state. The goals of the plan are not yet even fixed, with no certainty as to the scale of the emissions reductions to be achieved. Most worryingly, even a cursory glance at the details of this plan reveals it for what can genuinely be described as an outbreak of national insanity.
For example, in housing alone, the plan says that Ireland will install 680,000 heat pump heating systems over the next decade and retrofit 500,000 homes for energy efficiency. But the Government’s Housing Plan – Housing for All – published just a month ago, also outlines plans to build 33,000 new homes every year over the same period.
What we will have here, then, are two Government departments, and two Government plans, each with billions of euros behind them, competing for the services of a limited number of builders, plumbers, carpenters, and engineers, as well as a limited amount of building materials and supplies. And so, a government that came to power pledging to solve a housing crisis is instead planning to supercharge demand in that sector, driving up prices, and having Ministers compete against each other to see who can spend most of our money. Pity, Pity, Pity, the private couple who wish to build their own home, to say nothing of the MICA residents of Donegal, who must compete against everybody as well. Government can spend as much as it wants – but it cannot conjure more qualified construction workers out of thin air. All it can do, in this instance, is to supercharge inflation. Any reader who, in the last year, has had the misfortune to require the urgent services of a tradesman will know that they are thin on the ground – and that is before a Government campaign to tie them down for the next decade. This proposal will not only struggle to be viable in its own right – it also risks sucking the life out of private sector building and construction efforts, since nobody can expect to compete with the borrowed billions on offer.
If that were not enough, the policy on cars is so cruel and callous as to be barely believable. According to Leo Varadkar, “nobody will be forced to buy an electric vehicle” – which has, of course, a similar ring to it as the Government’s stated policy that nobody in Ireland is forced to take a vaccine. They are not forced in name only.
By 2025, he says, the Government will “put the right incentives in place” to make purchasing electric cars attractive. We already know what those incentives will be: Higher fuel costs, and massive subsidies for electric cars, which will become attractive to the rich. Those citizens who are poorer will find themselves in a trap: With an old car they cannot afford to run, and the option of a new car they cannot afford to buy. This is the policy by design, incidentally. It is not a design flaw. It is intended to reduce the total number of cars. It will start, and end, with those this plan can successfully, and intentionally, price out of the market. That will not be the affluent, but those at the margins.
Underpinning all of this is an unbelievable, unattainable, and unachievable goal: To reduce electricity CO2 emissions by 81% over 2018 levels, while at the same time dramatically increasing demand for that same electricity. The Government plans to eliminate huge swathes of the electricity industry, while dramatically scaling up demand through electric cars, electric heat pumps, and electric public transport. Even were these things possible, doing them would, just as in housing, supercharge demand for electricity, and drive up price.
Ireland already – before this plan was announced – has an electricity crisis which is in large part caused by our over-reliance on wind energy in a country where the wind does not always blow. Even with a current annual budget in the tens of billions for subsidising wind energy, the sector has not managed to become competitive on price with fossil fuel alternatives. There is no detail, of any kind, in the Government’s climate plan which makes this goal seem even remotely plausible, and it is to be justly feared that attempts to achieve it will result in an energy crisis which makes the present problems in the sector look like a very good day indeed.
Of course, amidst all of these problems, and the many more which cannot be expounded upon here for the sake of brevity alone, we must not lose sight of our national objectives.
After all, the purpose of this climate plan is to reduce Ireland’s CO2 emissions. It will almost certainly fail. But the real tragedy is that even were it to succeed, it would make no difference. Ireland’s annual CO2 emissions are produced slightly less than every two days by the Chinese economy alone, and that behemoth has no plans to do anything of significance on emissions. In fact, while Ireland plans to halve its emissions by 2030, the Chinese Government openly says that its emissions of CO2 will reach an all time high in that same year. Equally, at the same time as Ireland announced this monster plan, the United States Senate was still gutting climate action provisions from Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, which now looks increasingly dead in the water.
When you put all of this together, what the Government proposes defies any logical explanation. It is not the act of a sane institution, or a rational country. What was proposed yesterday amounts instead to a stunning act of national self harm, inflicted not only on the current inhabitants, but on future generations who will bear the immense and unprecedented cost.
The very best that the public can hope for is that this plan will collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. But the public must also bear much of the blame: They voted, after all, for these people.
This is a Government that now poses a clear and present danger to the economic wellbeing of every Irish citizen, and to the future economic security of the country. Voters who share that conclusion, having been appraised of the details of this Climate Plan, have a civic duty to remove this Government from office at the earliest opportunity.