The green tide will lift all boats

Outdoor Living

SUSTAINABLE SUPPORT Low-cost loans for households that need to upgrade their energy efficiency will help reduce energy consumption and lift people out of fuel poverty.

Nature and rewilding
Pat Fahy

In my previous article, I wrote about the European Green Deal, the EU’s grand plan to decarbonise our economy with the target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Conceived before the Covid-19 pandemic, the reactions of many EU governments has been interesting. The first reaction highlighted the need to protect economies more than anything, but over time the drive for a genuinely sustainable economy has emerged. The budget, supplemented with loans by investors who believe that the EU vision, is a move in the right direction. A once-in-a-century crisis has turned into a once-in-a-century opportunity.
Businesses and investors need certainty going into the future, and whilst many similar EU initiatives in the past have been found to be piecemeal and ineffective, the EU has stayed the course, deciding that they’ve made a promise to their citizens and they will keep it. If vested interests and Covid-19 couldn’t stop, it then I don’t know what will.
Eastern European countries heavily reliant on coal were eventually swayed over, and Covid has further highlighted the problems of air pollution for its citizens in large cities. In fact, contrary to many expectations, the pandemic has made it easier to finance sustainable change. The purse strings opened across the board of all EU countries. We have to rebuild, so why not rebuild sustainably?  
At its heart, the deal is about people and their basic needs, but what of the Irish people? What changes are planned for this country in the coming years?
Ireland will encounter many challenges on our journey to net-zero carbon by 2050, but it’s in our interest to act with urgency. An increase in the amount of flooding is predicted, while an area the size of Co Longford could be lost from our coastline by the end of the century, due to  sea-level rise and storm surges. Extended periods of drought will also play havoc with agriculture.  
Our progress has been promising in many regards, but there is still much work to be done. Twenty years ago we had no wind-power generation, now it accounts for 40 percent of the electricity mix.
We are now No 1 in the world per capita for wind-power generation, and ten years ahead of many other countries with to regard onshore wind generation – and there is much potential for offshore wind. Eventually it’s envisaged that we will generate 35 gigawatts from offshore wind, seven times the amount we are using at the moment. Inter connectors to other countries will provide revenue and a more sustainable future, eliminating the full-time need for coal-burning Moneypoint Power Station in the future.
For Ireland, it will mean more local electricity supply, with industries located near to their source. Around 120,000 farms are going to see changes, and those 120,000 farmers have to know they are going to get better payments for what they do.
We have to make sure that the 1.5 million households that need to make themselves energy efficient have low-cost loans available that can be paid with the savings, thereby also lifting people out of fuel poverty. The cleanest and cheapest energy is always the energy we don’t use, so energy-efficient usage is vital.
Many challenges lie ahead, but we humans are both resourceful and adaptable, and I genuinely believe that Ireland has a bright future in helping to tackle the world’s most pressing problem.