Ministers accused of “running for cover” after Ryan delays bringing “controversial” car use reduction memo to Cabinet

Fianna Fail and Fine Gael Ministers have been accused of being “too scared to even talk” about how Ireland decarbonises transport and were criticised by a leading environmental group and expert who said that the two parties “must stand over their own climate commitments”.

The Cabinet memo which was reported as covering traffic demand management such as congestion charging and increased parking charges is understood not to relate to any immediate action, but rather the formation of a plan and widespread consultation over the next 12 months on how the measures could be implemented.

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RTE News reported this morning that Minister Ryan said the decision to delay bringing the memo to Cabinet was taken “to give people time to read it further” because he said, “it is controversial”.

Dr Cara Augustenborg, assistant professor of environmental policy at UCD said: “A new transport strategy to reduce Ireland’s dependence on the private car was due to go to cabinet today for approval. I started to get concerned when I heard TD Jack Chambers on the radio yesterday saying there would be “no action taken soon” because ‘we have to bring everyone with us’ — as lovely and noble as that sounds, it’s become code for delay tactics by climate unfriendly politicians.”

She added: “Ireland’s Government declared a climate and biodiversity emergency in 2019, but let’s not rush into anything or, God forbid, discuss anything controversial like transport strategy.”

Friends of the Earth said that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are “too scared to even talk about how to achieve the transport targets.”

“It’s a very worrying sign if Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are too scared to even talk about how to achieve the transport targets they agreed to just months ago,” said Oisín Coghlan, chief executive of Friends of the Earth.

“Last year the Government made a binding commitment to cut polluting emissions from transport in half by 2030. And just before Christmas, they announced in the Climate Action Plan that meant a 25% reduction in car journeys and a 50% increase in cycling and walking,” he said. “Now they don’t even want to talk about a memo from the Minister for Transport on beginning to draft a strategy to actually make that happen.”

He said: “You have to wonder are Fine Gael and Fianna Fail serious about keeping the commitments they have made under their own climate law? Are they getting cold feet about tackling an overheating world? Or are they running scared at the first sign of opposition from fossil fuel interests?”

“This is like pulling a memo on developing the smoking ban after the first press release from publicans. It’s even more surprising when many of the proposed changes to improve accessibility and public health and to lower emissions are hardly revolutionary and are already in place in other European cities,” said Coghlan.

He added: “We need our political leaders to lead on climate action. In this case, it’s simply to lead the conversation with the public about how we get to a safer, cleaner future. And to be honest with people, as they were during Covid, that while the road ahead is rocky, change is necessary in order to protect and support our communities. Instead, ministers ran for cover at the first sign of controversy.”

Marc Ó Cathasaigh, Green Party TD for Waterford, said: “Maybe it’s because I’ve been looking at the work of the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, but increasingly I ask myself where are the voices of future generations here? If they could be heard, they’d be begging us to take action, further, faster, deeper, to ensure they have a liveable future.”

ALSO READ: NTA to publish research Ryan referred to on free public transport in “the next few days”

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